BUFFALO, NY – President Obama came to Buffalo, New York today to talk about helping small businesses create jobs. He brought a message of empowering small businesses so they can hire more workers. “Government can’t create jobs,” Mr. Obama said, “but it can create the conditions for small businesses to grow, thrive, and hire more workers.”
Solar Liberty, a Buffalo based solar integration company, has been doing just that by providing new green collar opportunities. New York State’s energy goal of “45 by 15” is designed to create 50,000 new jobs. Since being listed on Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies in 2008, Solar Liberty has hired additional staff in every department of the company. Buffalo’s eager blue-collar workforce has provided the skilled labor for solar installations. The area’s universities provide engineers, accountants, sales, and HR managers. “We have plenty of hard working, ambitious people in Western New York. A good job gives them a reason to stay,” said Adam Rizzo, president and co-founder of Solar Liberty.
“After college, I left Buffalo for Chicago to take an engineering job. I thought I had to move away to build a career. When I was offered this opportunity with Solar Liberty, I didn’t think twice about moving back. Buffalo is a great place to live, and the renewable energy sector is on the cutting edge,” said Bridget Reagan, commercial sales consultant and recently returned Western New Yorker.
The Multiplier Effect
The Department of Energy reports that about 20,000 people are currently employed in the solar industry. This number is expected to grow to 150,000 by 2020. Growth in renewable energy brings tangible opportunities for Western New York, a region with a rich history in the energy sector. Local universities and the industrial base provide an eager workforce to build America’s new energy infrastructure. Each new project benefits a supply chain of local firms and maintains jobs that cannot be outsourced.
“Installing solar energy systems is a job that has to be done on site with local labor. Using locally produced components makes our offer even more competitive,” explained Mr. Rizzo. “We use a local warehouse, local transportation companies, and our suppliers for copper wire, ballast blocks, and other components come from Upstate New York. Recently, we began manufacturing our own solar panel racking system at a local facility. It’s a 100% locally made product.”
Good for Business and Good for the Community
American buildings consume 74% of the electricity produced annually by the United States, according to the Department of Energy. Electricity costs are rising at a rate several times higher than inflation. Solar panels come with a 25-year power production warranty and are designed for a 40-year lifetime. Grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and federal and state tax credits lower the upfront costs of installing a solar energy system while reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. After the solar energy system has paid for itself in savings, the building is powered with the free energy of the sun.
The key to Solar Liberty’s success has been putting the community ahead of profits. Using available grants in 2008 and 2009, the company was able to bring major cost savings to nonprofit organizations and schools across the state. Over 100 colleges, k-12 schools, social services organizations, community groups, and cultural institutions are receiving fully installed systems of 100-200 solar panels each. These systems will save their organizations $3,500-$6,000 in electricity costs in the first year of operation. Considering energy inflation, the savings will grow to $165,000-$260,000 over the system’s 25-year warranty period.
“We’ve installed systems for all types of nonprofits – social services, education, community groups, cultural institutions. Every dollar a nonprofit can save in energy costs means more resources for serving the community with their mission,” Mr. Rizzo explained. “It’s also a good business strategy, too. By cutting our profits in the short term, we’ve built up the volume and economies of scale to compete and win against large national companies.”
The strategy is paying off. Solar Liberty has recently won several large competitively bid projects, thanks to its high volume trade with solar panel manufacturers and strengthened in-house resources. Among these are a 1.1 MW SUNY at Buffalo project, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s facility, the Rochester International Airport, the Westcott Reservoir in Syracuse, and the Westchester County Courthouse. The increased volume from commercial installations also lowers the cost to residential customers.
From Western New York to the Developing World
In September 2009, the Solar Liberty Foundation provided an off-grid solar electrification system to a Partners In Health clinic in rural Haiti. This January, following the devastating earthquake, the foundation worked with a Haitian organization to provide solar cookers to displaced people. The solar cookers allow people to cook food and sterilize water using the power of the sun for fuel, rather than environmentally damaging charcoal. Among the next planned projects in Haiti are a village community kitchen project and a solar electric system for an orphanage housing 68 girls in Port-au-Prince.
About Solar Liberty
Solar Liberty is one of the largest solar electric installers in New York State with offices in Buffalo and Syracuse. Founded in 2003, the company installs grid-tied photovoltaic solar energy systems for government, nonprofit, education, commercial, and residential customers. Named by Inc. Magazine as the 5th fastest growing private company in the US energy sector in 2008, Solar Liberty is committed to creating renewable energy solutions with turnkey service and high-quality components. For more information, go to www.solarliberty.com.
About the Solar Liberty Foundation
Solar Liberty Foundation, a tax-exempt nonprofit, is dedicated to providing renewable energy resources to rural areas of less developed nations. Founded in 2008 in Buffalo, New York, the organization provides solar energy systems, solar water filtration systems, and solar cookers. The Solar Liberty Foundation is currently focused on relief efforts in Haiti.
6500 Sheridan Dr., Suite 120
Buffalo, NY 14221