Earlier this summer, Lakeland hired Regenesis to own, finance and maintain 15,000 solar hot water systems for customers in Lakeland Electric’s service territory. The systems will be a mix of active and passive SHW systems, equaling about 30MW. Regenesis is a renewable energy service company that owns and operates solar assets in the U.S.
According to Jeff Curry, Lakeland Electric’s Alternative Energy Coordinator, the 15,000 systems represent about 15% of LE’s customers. Eligible customers who participate in the program will pay a flat $35/monthly service fee based on the energy delivered by the SHW system. Lakeland is planning for a January launch of this program.
Three presentations at 2:00, 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. by Regenesis Power, Lakeland Electric, and Polk State College gave attendees an overview of LE’s program. More than 60 attendees, men and women of all ages, showed up for all three presentations.
“It was a mix of individuals, consumers interested in solar, as well as solar and electrical contractors,” said Regenesis’s Antony Milner, Chief Marketing Officer. “In fact, a woman who came to the 2:00 session returned for the 6:00 session with her husband.”
Although the 6:00 session was mostly trade and construction workers, Curry said that there was a healthy blend of people looking for clerical, administrative and marketing jobs.
Lakeland Electric has logged in more than 10 years of experience with solar hot water systems. Since 1997, when it installed its first pilot solar hot water system, to the more than 30 systems in early 2000, LE learned valuable lessons about meter reading and billing, O&M realities, freeze conditions, hurricane survival, real estate transactions and insurance coverage, and, most importantly, how to nurture and maintain customer confidence.
“In a June 2009 questionnaire, 74% of LE customers said they were very likely or somewhat likely to participate in the solar hot water program if the out-of-pocket cost was about $1/day,” said Curry. “Customers responded even more favorably—82%–when we asked if they would participate if the cost of solar energy wouldn’t increase for 20 years. That was enough for us to know we were on the right path with our customers—that they agreed with our goals of offering an affordable, environmentally conscious solar energy option to traditional energy for heating water.”
Sharing the agenda with Regenesis Power and Lakeland Electric was Everton Jackson, Design, Construction and Sustainability Institute (DCS) at Polk State College (PSC). The DSC offers solar electric and solar domestic hot water curriculum at Polk State. Jackson also said that grant funding is available to offset training costs.
“We wanted to make sure that people who are interested in getting into the industry have a local, qualified path to training opportunities,” said John Pinlholster, Regenesis’s Chief Operating Officer/Thermal Division.
Dell Jones, Vice President, Renewable Project Development for Regenesis Power, is heading up the training component for this project. Jones is NABCEP-certified, and sits on the NABCEP Board of Directors.
“We’re strong supporters of NABCEP,” said Pinholster. “With Dell on our team, and director of training, it enables us to weave together our goals to have Regenesis installers NABCEP-certified.”
While no matches happened at this job fair, follow-ups are in the offing.
“Regeneisis is looking at the entire gamut of personnel,” said Pinholster, “from territory managers, warehouse managers, sales, installers, clerical, administrative. While we’re not hiring all of those skill sets just yet, we fully expect to gear up to that level of need as the program takes off.”
According to Curry, Lakeland Electric’s infrastructure is in place, thanks to its 10-year pilot program.
Plans are for a soft launch to about 100 charter customers by January 31, 2010, then by middle of Q1, the official launch of the program will occur.
“We’ve been waiting years to do this,” said Curry. “We’re ready.”