Thursday, November 23, 2017
Business

Real estate financing firm looks to cut 80 percent of electric bill with solar, energy efficiency

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Four years ago, Doug McCree couldn't imagine fulfilling his employees' wishes for covered parking.

But when a business associate prodded him to explore putting a solar canopy over the parking lot, wishful thinking turned hopeful. Solar developers proposed a plan combined with energy efficiency measures that would reduce the company's electric bill by more than 80 percent.

On Monday, McCree, the president and CEO of First Housing Development Corp. of Florida, fired up a new solar and net zero energy system on its 17,000-square-foot, 8-year-old facility at 107 S Willow Ave.

"The environmental thing is important to us. But as I looked at putting the money in and talking to my board, I had to make the case that this was a good economic use of our capital," McCree said. "It really can work."

First Housing, a commercial real estate financing company, is the latest among a growing number of commercial operations in Florida and across the country seeing the benefit of turning to solar and energy efficiency as a means to cut electricity costs.

A May report by GTM Research, which monitors solar and energy efficiency, noted solar nationwide accounted for 74 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in the first quarter of this year.

Part of the growth is driven by the falling cost of solar panels combined with a 30 percent federal tax credit that expires at the end of 2016, making solar more affordable.

That prompted Great Bay Distributors, a major Anheuser-Busch beer distributor in Largo, to include what will be the largest commercial solar array in Florida in the construction of its new facility in St. Petersburg.

What is unusual about First Housing is the company decided to convert an existing facility into a net zero energy building, which often is viewed as too costly of an enterprise.

First Housing employs 37 workers at the facility, along with a dozen workers of a tenant.

But McCree said that after looking at the numbers, the company determined it would reduce its annual electric bill from $36,000 to $6,000.

First Housing installed a 150-kilowatt solar system at its facility — about five to six times the size of the typical array at a residential home — for about $3 a watt, or about $500,000. The company also added an air conditioning monitoring system and LED lighting.

"Whatever the electricity rates are increasing to over the next 25 years, they won't impact me," McCree said.

That's the message McCree's solar developer, Scott McIntyre, president of Solar Energy Management, presses the public to recognize about solar and energy efficiency measures on existing or new buildings. But the benefits extend beyond First Housing, McIntyre said, as the project employed 20 workers and will save 4,760 tons of carbon emissions.

"This type of thing is not the future of Florida," McIntyre said.

"It's now."

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.

Comments
Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Associated PressSome smaller retailers will tug at shoppers’ heartstrings during the holidays, trying to create an emotional experience or connection that a big national chain might not provide.Store owners are going well beyond the usual holiday dec...
Published: 11/22/17
Six years and counting: Allegiant Air reaches agreement with flight attendants

Six years and counting: Allegiant Air reaches agreement with flight attendants

ST. PETERSBURG — After six years of negotiations, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air and its flight attendants union reached a tentative contract to improve worker pay and benefits and solidify airline policies."We feel like it’s an agreement that is cert...
Published: 11/22/17
Workers at luxury St. Pete condo tower say they are owed thousands

Workers at luxury St. Pete condo tower say they are owed thousands

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly three dozen workers at ONE St. Petersburg, a luxury condo tower under construction in the heart of downtown, haven’t been paid in weeks and are owed thousands of dollars.With the holidays nearing, some of the men say they are ...
Published: 11/22/17
Some cities faced with all-or-nothing medical marijuana rules are playing it safe

Some cities faced with all-or-nothing medical marijuana rules are playing it safe

When it comes to weighing the options for regulating medical marijuana through the law passed this year, Dunedin city commissioners declared local governments face a "conundrum" and "a false dilemma."They said they would welcome a dispensary in the c...
Published: 11/22/17
More guns being detected at Tampa Bay area airports — and everywhere else

More guns being detected at Tampa Bay area airports — and everywhere else

TAMPA — Here’s some travel math for this traditionally heavy day for long trips: More people carrying guns plus more people flying equals more guns going to the airport.The numbers bear this out. The federal Transportation Security Administration has...
Published: 11/22/17
A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

LAND O’LAKES — Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco sat together several times in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving break, trading contract proposals amid (mostly) amicable conversation.They c...
Published: 11/22/17

Florida Supreme Court suspends two Hillsborough lawyers

Times Staff WriterTwo Hillsborough County lawyers have been suspended from practice because of professional misconduct.The Florida Supreme Court ordered a 91-day suspension for Richard Luther Bradford of Brandon after he was found in contempt for fai...
Published: 11/22/17
Get all the Black Friday sales circulars today. Here’s how

Get all the Black Friday sales circulars today. Here’s how

The Tampa Bay Times Thanksgiving Early Bird edition, with all of the Black Friday ads and sales circulars, is available today.That’s right. You don’t have to wait until Thursday to check out the savings. Weighing nearly five pounds, the Early Bird Ed...
Published: 11/22/17
U.S. business leaders say Cuba is still open, at least to them, despite Trump’s new rules

U.S. business leaders say Cuba is still open, at least to them, despite Trump’s new rules

WASHINGTON — When the Trump administration announced new Cuba regulations, it sparked a new round of hand-wringing in Washington over a return to a posture not seen since the Cold War. But now, the American business community is quietly spreading the...
Published: 11/22/17
Here’s when stores will open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Here’s when stores will open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Although the crowds might still be unruly and the lines long, Black Friday as "The Day" is slowly waning. Steve Kirn, a University of Florida professor and executive director for the David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education & Research, said the...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17