Seacoast Bank Newsroom

Florida's only solar panel manufacturer ramping up for expansion

Posted by South Florida Business Journal on May 17, 2018 10:30:00 AM

shutterstock_314497955SolarTech Universal is ramping up its operations in Riviera Beach with new jobs, and it's on the hunt for a new manufacturing facility.

The company is the only solar panel manufacturer in Florida, and only the third in the U.S.' Eastern Time Zone, according to EnergySage.com. SolarTech Universal, which makes solar panels for both residential and commercial buildings, delivered its first orders in early 2016.

SolarTech Universal spokesman Nathan Rosenstein said the company plans to grow from 23 current employees to up to 50 employees by adding a second shift by the end of May. This fall, the company plans to add a third shift, reaching 65 to 70 employees, he said.
The additional shifts will help the company meet the increased demand for its solar panels as it expands distribution, Rosenstein said. Jobs on its production line pay $9 to $14 an hour, although the engineering jobs pay more, he added.

“We have actually oversold our supply in the last two quarters, so we had to scale back on some agreements,” Rosenstein said.

Anticipating that its 80,000-square-foot facility won’t be large enough to meet demand in the coming years, SolarTech Universal is scouting locations for an additional manufacturing plant of about 120,000 square feet, Rosenstein said. It would be developed in conjunction with its technology partner, Switzerland-based Meyer Burger, which licensed its SmartWire Technology to SolarTech Universal for use in its panels.

The company would like to build the second facility in the second quarter of 2019, Rosenstein said.

“It will hopefully be in Florida, or it could be in another state,” he said. “We need the community to support us. There is a really good chance it could be in South Florida.”

Florida has been a challenging state to sell solar panels in because of electricity generation rules that favor the power utility companies, Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein said homeowners who believe there’s a high upfront cost for installing solar panels are mistaken. By using the federal PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program or a personal loan, homeowners should pay little or nothing upfront and have a much lower electric bill, he said.

“Our entire scope of solar marketing is education,” Rosenstein said.

The solar panel industry received a shakeup in January when President Donald Trump imposed a tariff on foreign manufacturers of those products. Rosenstein said SolarTech Universal aims to become a “Made in the U.S.” company by sourcing over 50 percent of its parts domestically. It’s almost there now, he added.

“We are always excited for the success and growth of a partner like SolarTech Universal,” said Chuck Cross, executive VP and commercial banking executive at Seacoast Bank, which financed the company’s manufacturing facility. “We look forward to continuing to support them as they add more jobs and expand their facilities this year.”

 

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