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Inside a Bronx solar company that is changing NYC’s energy consumption

NY Daily News

Joey Scarborough

Oct 25, 2012

NEW YORK, October 25, 2012 – Some people — like Tom Theofilatos, who owns Astoria Properties — like to sit back on cloudless, sunny days to watch the electric meter go backward.

Aris Economides, a biologist who lives in a modest home with his family on the Tarrytown town green, prefers to monitor his electric output and consumption online.
Economides pays a $17 basic service charge per month to Con Edison for the solar hookup. He and Theofilatos received city, state and federal tax credit and subsidies after installing solar panels and energy- saving devices on their roofs.

It can cost a homeowner from zero to $13,500 to install a solar solution on their house. In other cases, the $13,500 installation fee and panel-leasing system will be fully paid off in money saved in as little as five to seven years.

In New York City and New York State, the solar revolution has begun. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has one of the largest subsidies in the nation for property owners who wish to convert to solar-energy solutions. They provide installers and solar companies that qualify with millions of dollars to dole out to qualifying customers. In New York City, the mayor has a tax credit that offers people installing solar energy up to $250,000 in property tax savings, or a maximum of $62,500 annually.

“New York is seen as the next great solar market,” says Margarett Jolly, Con Edison’s Distributed Generation ombudsman, who handles energy solutions for the electricity giant. “Incentives are higher here, and traditional electricity is more expensive. Those two factors drive benefit and add to tremendous financial savings.”

There is a whiteboard in the office of Charles Feit’s four-year-old Bronx-based solar energy company, OnForce Solar, that is full of more than 60 solar installation jobs across the five boroughs and the tristate area. Feit’s Portuguese water dog George naps under a Ping-Pong table. Salesman are busy on the phone. Smart Cars wait outside the Port Morris loft-like warehouse space to be driven to new jobs or meet new prospects.

Growth is in the air. Inc. magazine named OnForce Solar the 46th-fastest-growing company in the U.S. in 2012. This year, Crain’s New York Business called Feit one of the New York area’s top entrepreneurs. Feit, who lives in Gramercy Park, started the company after a difficult search finding the right organization to help him with energy solutions for a home he then owned in Westchester.

“What I found out was this has nothing to do with electricity,” says Feit, who ran a software company. “It’s about finance. It’s about cutting operating costs. If you show the client or any building owner what they can save over time, it becomes almost impossible for them to say no. They can buy their electricity for less money, but not only that, they can make all they spend on any installation back in less than six years. Whether it’s a big or small system, the savings are real. If you can but don’t do it, you’re throwing money away.”

Read the full report here

  • OnForce Solar CEO selected as a Crain's Magazine 2012 New York City Entrepreneur of the year. Read more... crains
  • Onforce Solar ranked the 42nd fastest growing Company in the nation. Read more... inc500