By Yann Brandt, CEO, Quick Mount PV
Florida’s solar industry is finally taking off and creating jobs all across the state. The seeds of this growth have been planted for years by businesses, solar professionals, regulators and elected officials. Their work in Florida and around the country is paying off in the form of new jobs and investment, a more resilient grid and cleaner air and water.
As a longtime Florida resident, it’s gratifying — and it’s even more gratifying to be a part of the growth. Floridians were made a promise by leaders a decade ago that when solar can compete on price, the government will not stand in the way of creating an enormous solar opportunity. That is why earlier this year, my own company Quick Mount PV chose South Florida as the first location to expand to outside of California.
The Sunshine State has always been a natural fit for solar. All the fundamentals are in place: The state gets tremendous sun and has sizable daytime energy demand primarily due to air conditioning. It’s a perfect match, yet solar power currently only accounts for 1% of the state’s total energy supply.
But Florida’s solar industry is no longer lagging; it’s booming.
Last year, Florida added 1,769 new solar jobs — that’s growth of 21% — that brought the state’s total solar industry employment in the industry to 10,358. It was the highest rate of growth in the country and meant Florida jumped to second in the nation in solar employment behind California. Perhaps the more impressive aspect of Florida’s job growth last year is it happened amid an overall national slowdown in solar jobs.
A significant reason for the boom is the fact that the cost of installing solar has dropped more than 70% in the last decade. Solar panels are much cheaper than they were a decade ago, but many people are surprised that much of the cost reductions are coming from so-called soft costs. Soft costs refer to the non-hardware costs of installing solar — and those are going down as well. Better solar mounting equipment makes it easier to train solar installers and allows installers to move much faster. Residential solar installations that might take three days just ten years ago can now be done before lunch.
Florida has a net metering law, which means it offers solar panel owners the opportunity to earn credit from their utility company when they produce more energy than they use. It also waives sales taxes on the sale of solar equipment. With the combined incentives of reduced costs, no added property tax for solar equipment, the net metering law, and sales tax exemption on solar equipment, rooftop solar has the green light for expansion.
Together with Florida’s business-friendly environment, sound policy foundation, growing local industry and decreasing costs of solar, the state was the obvious place for my company to expand.
Until now, we have been selling and supplying the East Coast market from our headquarters in California. The booming Florida solar market was just too strong to pass up — and we wanted to add fuel to our installer and distribution customers’ fire. Locating our warehouse and training center in Florida will further reduce soft costs by taking expensive logistics costs out of our supply chain for customers in Florida and the entire East Coast.
As a longtime Florida resident and solar advocate, this is an exciting time. Many of us in the industry have eyed the state as the next big thing for years. It’s exciting to now be a part of seeing that potential turn into jobs, investment and economic growth. We look forward to growing along with the rest of the solar industry in South Florida for a long time. The future is bright!
Yann Brandt is the CEO of Quick Mount PV and the managing editor of SolarWakeup. He has acquired a decade of extensive executive experience in the solar sector and has successfully financed over $400 million of solar projects across the globe. Yann holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University.