Berkeley Solar Power Company Earns High Rank for Growth

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A Berkeley solar panel company has placed within the top 10 percent of the nation's fastest growing businesses in a 500-company ranking published by Inc Magazine.

Located on San Pablo Avenue, the PowerLight Corporation placed 38 in the rankings.

"It's one more step to making Berkeley the solar capital of the world," said Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, who has been part of a movement to increase solar panel usage in the city.

A report offering recommendations on the use solar power for city facilities will be given to the Berkeley City Council by the city's Energy Commission within the next two to three weeks, Dean added.

Dean said, however, more work must still be done to make the city solar-powered.

The Inc 500 list was composed of the "fastest growing private companies," based upon growth during a five-year period, said Inc Magazine spokesperson Charlene Niles.

Founded in 1991, PowerLight offers both roof- and ground-mounted solar panel products. The company has provided rooftop panels for corporations such as Neutrogena and Toyota in the past.

"Our mission is for solar to become a meaningful part of our energy mix," said PowerLight Vice President Tom Leyden, adding that this would require more companies to go solar.

Changing to solar power is beneficial for companies because it is more reliable, saves operational costs and supports the environment, he added.

Leyden pointed out that PowerLight was involved in installing the solar-powered rooftop for Berkeley Whole Foods in March.

This installation, which is the largest of its kind in Berkeley, powers the store's lights, Dean said.

The trend toward creating more solar panel companies and businesses powered by solar energy remains relatively modest, Dean added.

PowerLight remains the only solar panel company in Berkeley, selling its products solely to businesses and governments.

"I know of a few solar installations but not an awful lot," Dean said. "I think people are genuinely puzzled (when they hear about solar energy)."

Homeowners must be better educated on how to install solar energy, Dean said, suggesting the city lead a "how-to" seminar explaining the solar installation process.

More people would be encouraged to go solar if they were given a tax break from the government, said Berkeley resident Wendy Alfsen, who added solar panels to her home before moving to Berkeley.

"To go solar you have to shell out a lot of cash," she said. "You have to put out a lot (of money) to get started."

PowerLight has been on the Inc 500 ranking in previous years, ranking 374 on the 2001 list and 186 on the 2000 list.

Over 40,000 companies applied to make the Inc 500 list, Niles said.

Inc Magazine will release its 2002 ranking list online Oct. 31.


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