Home » News » SOLAR ENERGY: Sun is shining on North Bay solar industry

SOLAR ENERGY: Sun is shining on North Bay solar industry

SOLAR ENERGY: Sun is shining on North Bay solar industry

The North Bay has become a hub of fast-growing solar energy companies with seemingly limitless growth on the horizon.
Long a champion of alternative sources of energy, the region is home to dozens of small providers, several industry pioneers and now a new breed of investor-backed players who see Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties as a prime market.
NORTH BAY -¨C The North Bay has become a hub of fast-growing solar energy companies with seemingly limitless growth on the horizon.
Long a champion of alternative sources of energy, the region is home to dozens of small providers, several industry pioneers and now a new breed of investor-backed players who see Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties as a prime market.
"They have more sun in the south, but we have the pro-solar mindset in the north,¡± said Tyson Grul, president of sales, finance and marketing for Marin Solar.
Leading the local industry is San Rafael-based SPG Solar, a 23-employee startup in 2002 with revenues of $1.5 million. Projected revenues for 2007 are between $55 and $60 million; the company has 123 employees and a branch office in Windsor.
The year 2002 was significant to the solar industry. State and federal rebates for solar energy had been in place since the oil crisis of the 1970s, but it was the disastrous spike in energy prices and rolling blackouts that occurred in 2001 following deregulation of the electricity industry in California that spurred a large number of electrical contractors to find solar startups.
"With energy shortages raising awareness and a rich, underused rebate program, the stars lined up for solar," said SPG founder Dan Thompson.
SolarCraft in Novato, Solar Depot in Petaluma, Marin Solar in San Rafael and a half-dozen other installers and vendors opened their doors around the same time. The industry got a second wave of energy from California's 2006 extension of the state tax rebate for solar installations, with $3.1 billion allocated to the initiative over a 10-year period.

Raising the cap on sales to 2.5%
In addition a provision that raises the cap on net metering, the solar electricity which can be sold back onto the grid, from 0.5 percent to 2.5, made possible large, multiple megawatt plants to serve municipalities, schools and hospitals.
In just one year, those initiatives brought to San Rafael investor-backed EI Solutions, a fastgrowing provider that just completed a 1.6-megawatt installation for Google.
"We wanted to be part of the historical Marin mafia of solar," said CEO Andrew Beebe.
Also new is Solar Power Fund in Mill Valley, which in January formally initiated a power purchase agreement program for mid-size commercial buildings in California.
IPower, a Novato startup and a pioneering Bay Area commercial property company are installing the first building-integrated solar roof in California.
Foster City-based SolarCity and Los Gatos-based Akeena Solar, Inc., both investor-backed and targeting the residential and small-to-medium commercial markets, arrived in Santa Rosa in May. Each expects to have about 20 locally hired employees within months.
"The Santa Rosa area is compelling because of a combination of new housing and environmentally conscious residents," said Akeena CEO Barry Cinnamon.
Also newly arrived is Berkeley-based Borrego Solar, which just opened an office in Petaluma. SunLink Corporation in Larkspur has highly engineered solar mounting systems for the commercial market.
"Our systems don't penetrate the building, which is a big step forward," said SunLink spokesman Mike Pile. "We've done close to 100 projects since we started 18 months ago."
In addition to plenty of providers, the North Bay is home to some of the most advanced installations and planned installations, including Codding Enterprise's one-megawatt project at Sonoma Mountain Village, one of the largest in the nation.
Rodney Strong's 750-kilowatt installation near Healdsburg is the largest winery installation in the world and the St. Francis Winery in the Sonoma Valley, at 457 kilowatts, is not far behind. Christopherson Home's Olive Ridge in Novato has built-in solar panels on the roof tiles that promise to deliver up to 2.3 kilowatts.
Santa Rosa builder Hugh Futrell's Bridge Trail subdivision near Fulton in Sonoma County features 43 solar-powered homes, each with a 1.9-kilowatt system.
Solar providers say there's plenty of opportunity for everyone in the North Bay.
"We think the Sonoma, Napa and Marin area is largely underserved, although Marin does have several established installers. We're expanding the market, not competing with it," said Mr. Cinnamon of Akeena.

  • Monocrystalline Solar Cell Our monocrystalline solar cell enjoys high photoelectric conversion efficiency and high reliability...
  • Polycrystalline Solar CellOur polycrystalline solar cell is characterized by high photoelectric conversion efficiency and high...