Austin-Based Solar Co. Growing in Houston

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Austin-Based Solar Co. Growing in Houston

Austin-based Freedom Solar LLC is ready to make Houston a priority, according to the new head of the company’s Bayou City office.

Lila Ontiveros became Freedom Solar’s vice president of business development and the company’s top Houston executive April 29. The company had office space in Houston, but it didn’t have a permanent workforce in the city until Ontiveros came on board. She has hired five people in the four weeks she’s been there, and that number is set to rise even further by the end of the year, she said.

Ontiveros said the headcount could end up in the realm of 20 to 50 employees as 2019 comes to a close, but the precise number will depend on how quickly the company ramps up in Houston.

Freedom Solar handles panel installations for residential and commercial customers, and everyone who works for it is a full-time employee — unlike many other similar companies, Freedom Solar does not use subcontractors to handle installation. Ontiveros said she thinks direct employees are more committed to the work when they are fully employed.

“A lot of things can go wrong,” Ontiveros said. “We want to make sure every panel is put on with exact precision.”

[Related: Austin’s Largest Solar Array]

Solar IQ

Houston represents a massive untapped business opportunity for companies looking to provide solar power, Ontiveros said. The city is growing rapidly, and it gets plenty of sun, but people in the city just don’t know about their opportunities in solar, she said.

“The solar IQ in Texas is really low, but the solar IQ in Houston is extremely, extremely low. … It’s just an untapped market,” Ontiveros said.

That means Freedom Solar can gain a lot of ground by educating potential customers. There’s a misconception among solar companies that Houston is an oil and gas town and that the people who live there won’t be receptive to solar power, Ontiveros said.

“I think that is a misperception,” Ontiveros said. “Every single person I’ve spoken with in the oil and gas industry, they’re into listening. They want to have the conversation.”

Coming Home to Houston

Ontiveros grew up in Texas, but left to attend college in the Northeast and then took a job in New York. She returned to Houston in 2016 as the finance director for Ted Cruz’s 2016 bid for the U.S. presidency.

She took the job with Freedom Solar in part because it gives her the chance to be on the forefront of something she thinks will be transformational while still providing her with the tools she needs to succeed, Ontiveros said.

“The CEO has basically given me the keys to the city of Houston, like, ‘Go forth and prosper,’” Ontiveros said.

At Freedom Solar, Ontiveros can run a company and still have the support of a strong management team in Austin, she said. And it lets her become an expert in something that’s going to be “the next wave,” she said.

You can read original article here.

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