When prices were sky high (compared to now) and the State of Florida had an active rebate program for solar energy systems, it seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry (or electrician, plumber, and contractor) tried to get into the business. They competed head to head on projects against my employer who had been in the solar energy business for 35+ years. Solar energy installations require a CVC license in the State of Florida. However, electricians can do solar electric work and plumbers can do solar water heating work.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of plumbers and electricians that are doing good solar work; however, these contractors generally don’t have adequate experience with nuances of solar energy, and don’t practice solar energy as a primary line of business. In particular, roofing work and attachments to buildings require a special level of understanding and expertise. The problem is that some contractors don’t take the time to learn the trade.
On the other hand, there are plenty of solar contractors that don’t have adequate electrical experience for photovoltaic systems or plumbing experience for solar water heating. It works both ways. It takes a real focus on the industry to do great work!
All Florida State certified contractors can do business in any county (registration may be required). In Lee County, Collier County, and Charlotte County alone there are a total of 14 Certified Solar Contractors registered with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation with a CVC license. Most of these licensees/companies has a primary line of business other than solar energy! It’s hard to say exactly, but probably just six are actively in business with a primary focus on solar energy, and at least three of those have significant interests in other trades or industries.
On top of the currently licensed contractors in the three counties, there are 32 applicants that are “Eligible for Exam,” which means that they have applied for the examination process are are undergoing the licensing process. There are also two applicants that have not yet been approved to take the exam. I am one of the “Eligible for Exam” applicants. I recently passed the trade portion of the exam with a 95% score. I will be eligible for licensing after passing my business and finance exam (as a University of Florida Finance grad, I think I’ve got this one…)
Where does my employer fall into this mix? Well, we have two certified solar contractors on staff – the owner and his son. I will soon be the third. All three of us will be 100% focused on solar energy contracting. Nobody else comes close.
Why does this matter?
Contractors jump on the bandwagon. Solar is today’s hot industry. Everyone thinks there is a pot of gold at the end of the solar contracting rainbow. The problem is that Leprechauns don’t do good solar work, and won’t be there down the road when you need them most. I won’t get into the history of the 1980’s when the industry lost a massive Federal solar water heating incentive, but just last year we lost a major Florida State incentive in a near scandalous debacle. Companies doing solar work started dropping like flies, and contractors doing solar as a sideline business abruptly stopped advertising services. I wonder how many of the current applicants will follow through with their licensing.
There is plenty of room for plumbers, electricians, and newbie solar start-ups. However, with whom will you trust your solar energy business?