Barry and Elaine Jacobson: Spirit of Gainesville nominee


Published: Monday, August 20, 2012 at 11:23 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 20, 2012 at 11:23 a.m.

In 2007, Barry and Elaine Jacobson were enjoying successful careers and raising their 2 sons, Kyle and Eli. Barry was a partner in an environmental engineering firm and Elaine was an economist for IFAS at UF. They decided to install solar electric on their own home and were immediately shocked at the quote they received. Barry, being an engineer and having worked with solar for years in the field, decided to design and install the system himself. Elaine managed the project and they were able to save $20,000 from the original quote. The proverbial "entrepreneurial light bulb went on" and Barry and Elaine saw there was a tremendous opportunity to create a business that would make solar affordable for other homeowners and business owners in Gainesville. Thus, Solar Impact was born. The company was founded with a mission to "Make Solar Affordable." In less than 5 years, Solar Impact has grown to be one of the largest solar electric companies in Florida. They have designed and installed solar electric systems for the Gainesville Regional Airport, the Alachua County Library District, The Florida Museum of Natural History, the University of Florida East Campus, as well as, over 100 homeowners throughout North Central Florida.

Facts

Category: Entrepreneurship

About Barry and Elaine Jacobson

Occupation: Solar Design and Installation

Years in Gainesville: 20

Children: Kyle and Eli

However, the project Barry and Elaine are most proud of is the Alachua County Public School Solar project. Having watched both of their sons matriculate through the local public school system, they were keenly aware of how hard the faculty and staff worked to provide an outstanding education with very limited resources. Barry was driving by Westwood Middle School one day and was struck by the vast amount of open roof space. He and Elaine then developed an idea to use the roof space on the schools to generate revenue for our local school district. Fast forward three years, and the Alachua County Public School District has over 1.2 megawatts of solar electric installed on their roofs. The solar electric systems are owned by private investors who lease the roof space from the public schools. The lease payments will generate $2.5 million for our public schools!! ($125,000 per year for the next 20 years). This money will be used to fund a K-12 renewable energy curriculum for our children and will also fund energy efficiency improvements at the schools.

At a time when our public schools are under immense financial pressure, Barry and Elaine hope that this model can be duplicated throughout our state and country.

Barry and Elaine proudly support the Alachua County Public School Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club, The Florida Track Club, the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, Cinema Verde, Gala for Kids, Florida as Eden, and other charitable and civic organizations.

In closing, I believe that Barry and Elaine's entrepreneurial spirit and vision has created an environment in which solar is no longer considered an "alternative energy source." By making solar affordable, they have allowed homeowners and business owners to harness the power of the sun and reduce our country's dependence on foreign fuel.

Submitted by Donald Ryan

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