Here Comes the Sun: The Solar Power Business in Texas
HOUSTON – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) – The market for solar installations in Texas is bright and hot – just like the celestial orb that fuels the daily operations at Freedom Solar, the Lone Star state’s oldest solar power provider.
In fact, officials at the firm founded in 2007 announced the company has moved its Houston headquarters to new, expanded facilities to accommodate the doubling of Bayou City sales.
“The opening of this new, larger headquarters is emblematic of the phenomenal reception we have received in the Houston market and a continuation of our expansions over the past year in both Dallas and Austin,” said Freedom Solar CEO Bret Biggart.
“Businesses and homeowners are realizing how affordable solar has become and are increasingly choosing to install clean, reliable energy sourced directly from Texas’ abundant sunshine.”
Secured by a three-year lease, Freedom’s new Houston facilities at 1234 North Post Oak Road, Suite 170, include 8,160 SF of warehouse space, large enough to store 2,500 solar panels designed for Freedom’s needs.
The company also expects to add more than 15 new employees during the first quarter of 2020. Company leadership is enthusiastic about hiring the best employees and treating them exceptionally well, with “radical transparency” in communication so each individual can identify a path forward in their career, and in a family atmosphere.
The 13-year-old firm that opened its Houston office in 2018 is moving ahead based on positive projections for the solar energy business. “Looking ahead, we are extremely bullish on Houston, which has consistently been a world leader in innovation and energy,” said Freedom Solar Vice President of Business Development Lila Ontiveros. “As Texas continuously moves toward alternative energy sources, we will be on the forefront to help Houston businesses and individuals take advantage of the savings available in solar.”
A couple of clouds may darken some of that sun-based potential. A major obstacle might be the decreasing federal solar tax credit—also known as the investment tax credit (ITC)—which allows homeowners and businesses to deduct a significant percentage of the cost of installing a new solar energy system from their federal income taxes, with no cap on its value.
The tax credit has stepped down from 30% in 2019 to 26% in 2020 and drops to 22% in 2021. In 2022, the credit will be eliminated for residential projects and will fall to 10% for commercial projects.
Ontiveros said the ITC could be extended. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
Also, national leaders in Washington point out that the U.S. is energy self-sufficient for the first time in history. The firm’s VP counters that the cost of solar energy equipment has consistently fallen. “The price of solar panels has dropped 88%.”
Overall, she noted, “the economics make sense. People are going solar now for sound financial reasons.” A decade ago, she said, solar power was a curiosity for environmentalists and “tech” people. “There is increasing interest now – particularly among people in Texas.”
Deregulation and local incentives have also put a grow light on the solar market. And with Houston to soon notch the title of third largest city in the United States, the municipality’s formerly “low solar IQ” has been snowballing.
While residents realized that their electric bills were rising, “they became a lot more aware of alternatives. Solar and wind are part of these. And there is a lot of sun and wind in Texas.”
Ontiveros said the electric grid – built between the 1930s and 1960s – needs upgrading to handle hefty demand of power-drawing devices. “Air conditioning, cell phones and data networks all require power to meet the needs of the larger population.”
The majority of Freedom’s Houston installations thus far have been in suburbs north, west, and south of the city, and the location of its new headquarters near the intersection of I-10 and Loop 610 West allows the company’s trucks to easily reach jobs throughout the Houston metro area.
Named Residential Regional Top Producer of the Year by the global solar manufacturing standard-bearer, SunPower, Freedom Solar racked up more than $45 million in residential and commercial projects in 2019, compared to $26 million in 2018. Freedom almost doubled its year-over-year revenue, installing more than 12 megawatts of solar projects—enough to power more than 5,000 Texas homes.
Also a Tesla Powerwall Certified installer, Freedom has installed more than 65 megawatts of solar panels since 2007 and ranks number 338 on Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing private companies in America.
The firm has steadily grown its local residential and commercial market share, serving major clients such as the Houston Museum of Natural Science, ABC Home and Commercial Services, Electronic Power Design, Evelyn’s Park Conservancy, Home2 Suites and Illuminate Vintage.
Freedom Solar has completed projects for numerous corporate clients including Whole Foods, Office Depot, Lake Flato Architects and The University of Texas, among others.
Feb. 3, 2020 Realty News Report Copyright 2020