Bay Area Solar Industry Grows

The solar industry got a black eye when Solyndra collapsed. But despite the setback, it continues to grow, especially in the Bay Area.

The solar industry got a black eye when Solyndra collapsed. But despite the setback, it continues to grow, especially in the Bay Area. SunEdison, which is a worldwide developer of large solar-power installation, is set to move its headquarters from Maryland to Belmont.

California Governor Jerry Brown went to the new SunEdison headquarters, which was formerly a vacant office building that will hold more than 400 people once the movie is complete. The governor said at a news conference that the state is aiming to be a world leader in solar. It would invest more in the industry.

SunEdison sees California as a vast market for solar power and a deep talent pool. The company has installed solar panels at 290 locations within the state, which include Nellis Air Force Base, Kohl’s stores, and various California State University campuses. The Bay Area has a workforce that’s expert in financing, designing, and installing solar systems.

There are few states that have made an effort to increase the use of renewable energy as well as nurture the companies that produce them. Governor Brown signed legislation earlier this year that required utilities in the state to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2020. This is an increase from the current requirement of 20 percent.

The governor also signed a bill by Assemblyman Jerry Hill of San Mateo that clarified a point of California tax law that would ensure that new solar power installations would not trigger property tax reassessments. The bill was one of the factors that lured SunEdison into the Bay Area because it could affect most of its customers.

SunEdison is a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials Inc, which manufactures silicon wafers used for solar cells and semiconductors. Last September, MEMC and SunEdison purchased Fotowatio Reneable Ventures Inc, which is a solar power plant developer based in San Francisco. It was previously owned by a Spanish company.

Because of the acquisition, SunEdison already has around 100 employees in San Francisco. Out of the possible 400 people expected to work at the Belmont headquarters, half will be transplants from its old Maryland office.

The bankruptcy of Solyndra sent shock waves through the clean technology companies. More than 1,100 jobs were lost in the Bay Area as an aftermath. But it didn’t stop other solar companies from expanding their operations in the area. SunPower Corp and SolarCity hired more workers in the past weeks.

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