Saturday, January 8, 2011

California Company Installs Solar Panels Coast to Coast

One of the country’s largest solar roof panel systems will be built by a Roseville company.

Solar Power, Inc. beat out competitors in its bid for a 5-megawatt system it will design and construct atop White Rose Inc.’s distribution warehouse in Carteret, N.J. White Rose is the largest grocery wholesaler in the New York City area.

“That area is definitely a sweet spot for solar developers,” Mike Anderson, Solar Power’s vice president of marketing, said of the Northeast, where government incentives – particularly in New Jersey – boost alternative energy. “Having them as clients speaks volumes as we go forward.”

The warehouse, which typically requires 7 megawatts for its energy needs, will rely heavily on the installations, to be finished in the second half of the year.

With utility costs growing by leaps and bounds, White Rose turned to solar energy for relief.

”We saw this as a no-brainer,” said John Annetta, White Rose’s senior vice president of operations. “There was no way we could lose on this.”

Anderson said the White Rose contract includes Solar Power’s SkyMount, which incorporates solar panels onto a membrane roof without voiding the structure’s warranty. Because SkyMount is lightweight, it is faster and cheaper to assemble.

After completion, Solar Power will continue to monitor the panels, which amount to the company’s second largest project, behind a 6-megawatt system at Aerojet’s Folsom campus.

The developer, headquartered at 1115 Orlando Ave., has a manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China. Its contracts have covered commercial and public buildings from Lincoln to Georgia, as well as the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

Every solar company is still “a pup,” Anderson said – Solar Power formed in 2006. So the budding industry relies on subsidies, such as the California Solar Initiative Program, until the nation weans itself off non-renewable energy sources.

People still need convincing that solar – or wind or other alternatives – are worthwhile, Anderson said. In some areas of the country, traditional electricity is still comparatively cheaper.

“That’s why subsidies are important,” he said. “You got to get the engines firing.”

Roseville is among cities where solar power is still more expensive, Roseville Utility Exploration Center supervisor Bob Garrison said. But that can’t last long.

“Anytime we can move away from energy resources that are non-sustainable … we’re doing the world a favor,” Garrison said, adding, “We’re very pleased to have that business here in Roseville, because that’s one of the things we pride our city on.”

Though one of the fastest-growing companies in the region, Solar Power hasn’t been immune to the risks of nascent enterprise. It reported a net loss of $2.6 million in the third quarter, compared with a profit of $1.7 million a year earlier.

The company attributed figures to the recovering economy and to delayed payments from Aerojet, which has reportedly tied up $9 million of working capital.

It also reported net sales of $20.8 million in the first three quarters of 2010, compared with $38.5 million in the same period in 2009.

Garrison said that as the technology of companies like Solar Power becomes more widespread, prices will become more affordable.

In the past, Solar Power clients have included the Placer County Juvenile Detention Facility in Auburn, as well as Roseville homeowners. Solar Power no longer contracts to private residents, but expressed a desire to do more work in the area.

“Nothing makes us happier than to work here in our backyard,” Anderson said.


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