BOULDER – Despite thriving operations in Texas and New York, Lighthouse Solar Inc.’s president and chief executive Scott Franklin said Wednesday that the company has ceased its installation services in Boulder, leading to a reduction of 25 employees.
The move, he said, comes as a result of limits on the Solar Rewards incentive program, administered by Xcel Energy Inc. and regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, that he said have adversely impacted the market for commercial-scale solar systems in Colorado.
“They’ve made market conditions untenable,” Franklin said.
Clean Energy Solutions Inc., owned by Franklin, is the parent company of both Lighthouse and Lumos Solar LLC, both of which are based at 3550 Frontier Ave. in Boulder. Franklin said the combined employee count dropped from 40 to 15. He said not all of the 25 eliminated positions were layoffs, as some of those employees were able to leave for other jobs ahead of the changes.
Lumos’ focus has been on the design and engineering of solar panels, while Lighthouse’s focus is on solar system design, engineering and installation. Lumos will continue to have a heavy focus on the product side, but also offers project management services while contracting out installation.
The privately held companies don’t disclose revenue. But Franklin, who founded Lighthouse in 2006 and Lumos in 2007, said both are profitable, with Lumos selling product in “virtually every state.” He said it will continue to be business as usual for the Austin, Texas, and New Paltz, New York, divisions of Lighthouse.
“And they crank,” Franklin said.
Lighthouse just last year completed significant commercial installations at FlatIron Crossing mall in Broomfield, Twenty Ninth Street retail district in Boulder, the University of Colorado-Boulder’s East Campus and at Western Disposal Services Inc. in Boulder.
But the medium-size, or commercial program, portion of Xcel’s Solar Rewards program for projects between 25 and 500 kilowatts reached capacity and was closed in October of last year. Solar Rewards is a program that offers Xcel customers incentives to install solar electric systems on their homes and businesses.
In May, an agreement was reached between Xcel and solar industry representatives that re-opened the medium-size program to a maximum of seven megawatts-worth of new projects this year until a more concrete plan could be approved by the PUC. That was not enough, Franklin said, to make the installation side of the solar business a good industry to be in locally.