The branch now features 30 solar panels and storage for 1,500 gallons of water, a $100,000 system installed by the Fort Lauderdale unit of Fort Myers-based Advanced Solar & Spa Inc. The system supplies hot water for the kitchen and cafeteria in abuilding where hundreds of people work round-the-clock, seven days a week.
The installation job allowed family-owned Advanced Solar to employ four people for several months and lets them keep two extra employees permanently on the payroll, said company co-owner Jacob Fields
“Times have been really tough for us, so this job really helps us,” Fields said, noting recent recession and real estate slump forced the small business to pare its staff from 82 in 2006 to roughly 50 today.
Advocates of renewable energy see great potential for solar power in sunny Florida, but cite a slate of reasons why commercial buildings have been slow to embrace sunshine for heating water.
Many people lack awareness of new technologies available and “may think it’s too expensive,” said Advanced Solar co-owner Daniel Goldberg.
Solar heating systems tend to pay for themselves over time because of savings on electricity, but some building owners may hesitate to make the up-front investment in today’s uncertain economy, he said.