Solar energy back in the light - East Valley Tribune: Business

Solar energy back in the light

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Posted: Monday, May 22, 2006 6:16 am | Updated: 4:58 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Code Electric, a 43-yearold Tempe-based electrical contractor, has launched a new solar systems business to serve the growing interest in solar energy in Arizona.

The company has moved to a new 6,000-square-foot building at 2428 W. Campus Drive, Tempe, and plans to add 75 jobs in the next four years.

Owner and president Mark Holohan, who purchased the company in December, said he is drawn by increased subsidies that utilities are offering for solar devices such as photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into electric current.

Utilities will provide up to $12 million in rebates this year to customers who install solar projects, both residential and commercial. That money is expected to leverage more than $25 million in solar projects in the state this year, according to the Arizona Department of Commerce. And the market is likely to continue to grow as Arizona regulators require more of Arizona’s energy to come from renewable sources.

“This is a great opportunity,” Holohan said.

Code Electric has two solar projects in the works — a walkway shade structure in Flagstaff that will have solar panels on the roof, and a school rooftop installation in Maricopa County. The company also is continuing its conventional electrical contracting work because there aren’t enough solar jobs yet to keep the company’s 30-person work force occupied full time, Holohan said.

In the solar arena, Code Electric is specializing on commercial projects, not residential, because the bigger commercial jobs are the most cost efficient and have a more significant impact, he said.

Even with increased support, the state still is only “a solid second-tier” solar market, Holohan said. That’s because the high cost of solar energy makes subsidies essential, and Arizona subsidies remain small compared with states that are aggressively pursuing solar energy.

“Eighty percent of the U.S. solar market is California,” he said. “They are putting $300 million into subsidized solar projects.”

Holohan believes politicians understand the seriousness of global warming and the contributions made to it by burning fossil fuels.

Consequently, he believes government incentives for solar energy will continue to expand.

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