The new surge for energy: Solar power company sets up shop in Rocklin
By WILLIAM M. HATCH /The Press-Tribune/ Roseville
Applied Power Corp., a solar power company, held its grand
opening in Rocklin on Wednesday, celebrating its arrival at the
the hottest photovoltaic market in the nation.
Schott is a 107-year-old German glass manufacturing company.
George Giatras, New York-based director for Schott's U.S. businesses,
said the company's 2010 vision study identified solar power as one
most important elements on the business horizon.
Sam Vanderhoof, president, said the solar-power industry is leaping
forward and grew 40 percent in California alone this year, egged
the energy crisis. Part of the story, he said, involves several
California residential subdivisions - like Bickford Ranch in Lincoln
are offering solar-powered homes for sale.
If Bickford Ranch builds the 1,000 solar-paneled homes planned
developer U.S. Home, it will be the largest concentration of solar
powered residential construction in the world, according to AstroPower,
the company providing solar equipment for the development.
Schott Chief Operating Officer Stephan Hansen said Sacramento
center of the photovoltaic industry in the U.S. "because Sacramento
headquarters for California and California is the biggest market
power) in the country."
California accounts for 70 percent of the nation's solar power
and installations, he explained. The U.S. is 30 percent of the world
market. Japan is the largest consumer of solar power equipment and
Germany is next.
Hansen said, "Japan made a serious decision to be energy
and Germany lately has also been turning towards solar power for
For Sacramento native Vanderhoof, being hired as president of
company and opening an office in Rocklin is coming home. Both his
and grandfather worked for Southern Pacific in Roseville and, he
great grandfather was present at the driving of the Golden Spike
Promontory Point, Utah, linking the eastern and western portions
first transcontinental railroad line. Vanderhoof moved to Nevada
from Sacramento, built an off-the-grid house and learned about solar
power systems by installing one. Later he opened Independent Power
in Nevada City and installed systems for others. After some years
installing systems, he was hired by Trace Engineering, a Seattle-based
company that manufactures photovoltaic inverters.
Nevada County had a part in developing some of the industry's
equipment, said Nick Nicholas, a technician with Alternative Power
Systems in North San Juan.
"People at the Ananda Center (on N. San Juan Road) designed
one of the
first load centers in the industry. A load center is the landing
point for all
the wires that connect the solar panels, batteries and inverters.
design was bought by Trace."
The same is true of another off-the-grid area in the state, Mendocino
County. The company Schott bought in January was called SES Applied
Power. It belonged to a group of five independent companies in the
country bought by Idaho Power and Light Co. two years ago. But the
company was founded by Jim Padulla, a Willits lumber mill operator,
about 20 years ago, according to Ralph Pisciotta, a Willits electrician
has been installing solar systems for 30 years, like Vanderhoof,
with his own.
Schott sells a variety of solar energy products to contractors
"We sell equipment from large commercial projects to off-the-grid
homes," Vanderhoof explained. "We sell power generators,
systems to off-set electric-company generation. We sell equipment
national and state parks. We assemble equipment, do engineering
installation jobs as well as distributing."
One reason the Sacramento region has become the California center
the photovoltaic industry, he said, is because of the sponsorship
Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD).
"SMUD is one of the largest funders of multi-year photovoltaic
around and they do a lot of big commercial installations,"
He added SMUD was also involved in the distribution of a line
panels called Pioneer, manufactured by Cal Solar.
With state rebates, installing solar energy systems is cheaper
than it ever
has been, Martin Webb of Penn Valley-based PlanIt Solar, said.
"It's a good long term investment," he said. "It
will take you around 15
years to pay it off - and that's in a PG&E area, not Roseville
power is cheaper). But the California Energy Commission is offering
50-percent rebates and the equipment now has 25-year warranties.
investment similar to buying a car or a house. If you're young enough,
ensure your power supply for the next 30-40 years. If you're older,
solar system will increase the value of the property because energy
will keep going up.
But the U.S. has been slow to recognize the advantages of solar
"Last year the U.S. Department of Energy put $70 million
research for this year," he said. "At the same time, the
government contributed $300 million for solar research and development."