Solar panels

Homes in the Foothills sport solar panels on top of their house. Darryl Webb/AFN

Darryl Webb/AFN

In the face of an economic crisis, the solar industry, along with just about every other, feels the effects of a struggling capital market. But the solar industry has several key players in its court who are determined to make Arizona an attractive destination for these companies.

Local non-profit organizations like Great Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and the Arizona chapter of the Solar Energy Industry Association (AriSEIA) cover a range of initiatives that deal with solar power. GPEC has a goal to recruit companies to Arizona.

It partners with Gov. Jan Brewer who helps "sell" the state to these prospective companies.

The results in the past few years, despite the recession, have been positive for solar power and renewable energy companies in general. The president and CEO of GPEC Barry Broome said they brought in 11 companies in the past year and are projected to recruit 16 more over the next two years.

"We target growth companies, tell them our story and get help from Governor Brewer," Broome said. "Arizona is a good choice because we have a renewable energy tax credit that provides them tax credit based on capital investment and jobs."

Broome said GPEC looks at investment banking patterns from news wires as one way to determine which companies they will attempt to recruit. The industry grew 67 percent in 2010, he said.

"With the sun the way it is here, Arizona has a chance to be a real player in the solar industry," Broome said. "There is also the aspect of engineering talent in the Valley. We have seen big growth."

SEIA is a national organization that deals with public policy and education at both the state and national level. They pushed for and got the residential tax credit in Arizona, which is a one-time credit of $1,000, that is available to consumers.

On the federal level, the Federal Residential Solar Investment Tax Credit, which came into effect in 2009, allows a 30 percent tax credit for consumers.

Michael Neary, executive director for AriSEIA, said their goal is to get a strong program for both residential and commercial consumers of solar panel systems through negotiations with the state legislature and corporation commission.

"There has been great public support for solar," he said. "It's a matter of if voters are willing to pay more and support greater use of solar and less use of coal...Our financial strength drives industry to build these programs."

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