Solar Panel Testing Company Establishes Facility in West Berkeley

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Attempting to mine the niche market of solar panel testing, PV Evolution Labs, an independent startup company formed last year, has established an operational facility in West Berkeley.

The building, located at 1360 5th St., consists of a laboratory and offices, where the company will assess the effectiveness of various flat plate photovoltaic solar panels submitted for evaluation by third-party manufacturing companies.

CEO Jenya Meydbray, who co-founded the company with Rajeev Singh, said he thought of the idea for PV Evolution Labs while working as a senior reliability engineer at the San Jose-based SunPower Corporation. During his time with SunPower, Meydbray traveled to solar panel manufacturers throughout the world to investigate their quality-control operations, which he said led him to realize the industry's need for independent testing agencies.

"It's obviously a very tiny area to be in, as there aren't that many competitors out there," Meydbray said. "There's a massive pent-up demand for this service."

The firm currently employs two full-time workers and projects that its workforce will increase to between 15 and 20 people within three years, Meydbray said.

"We've assembled an awesome, strong team with unique experience," Meydbray said. "The unique expertise they bring to the field of solar panel testing and their reliability are unmatched."

The company joins the ranks of several other Berkeley solar power businesses, including groSolar and Better Energy Systems LLC, also located in West Berkeley.

Meydbray said the lab will specialize in accelerated lifetime testing, which reproduces the failures and degradations a solar panel is assumed to suffer over time. In one test, the panels are dosed with high-intensity UV lights to simulate years of sun exposure and then examined for damage.

PV Evolution Labs chose to purchase property in Berkeley in part because of the city's historical support for alternative energy sources and environmentally friendly solutions to energy issues, according to Meydbray. The company also launched a facility in Davis last month for outdoor field testing.

"The green business sector is an important one in Berkeley - it's important as a source of jobs, and it's also important as a provider of services for Berkeley residents and businesses," said city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross.

Despite criticism of the economic viability of photovoltaic solar panels in recent years - including several from Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute - Meydbray said he was confident that the company would experience a market growth of 100 percent in 2011 and large rates into the next decade.

"The market benefits of installing the current solar PV technology, even after adjusting for its timing and transmission advantages, are calculated to be much smaller than the costs," Borenstein wrote in a paper published with the Center for the Study of Energy Markets in January 2008.

Meydbray said the North American solar market is the best in the world due to is availability of land, amount of sunlight and availability of capital. He added that as solar power technologies become cheaper and more efficient, their advantages over traditional energy forms will increase.

"The fuel cost of solar is free and reliable - it's sunlight," he said. "Libyan dictators can do whatever they want with their oil, but the sun will shine tomorrow regardless."


Contact Andrew David King at [email protected]

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