Published May 18, 2010
Volume 18, Number 5

CentroSolar Sees Sunny Skies Ahead for the Solar Industry     Federal Stimulus Funding will Help Spur Creation of Company's New Manufacturing Plant

This Bay Area project is one example of CentroSolar’s work.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

New Hacienda tenant CentroSolar America, which opened an office at 3875 Hopyard Road in October 2009, is off to a great start. 

In early January the company, a subsidiary of the German solar manufacturer CENTROSOLAR Group AG, won a $4.7 million federal tax credit to support a new manufacturing plant under the $2.3 billion Recovery Act Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits. This federal stimulus funding has been appropriated to support clean technology and green manufacturing jobs.

The plant will be built in Gresham, Oregon. The Hacienda office serves as the home base for CentroSolar America’s chief executive, Deep Chakraborty and a growing staff, who were all energized by the news.

“The solar industry is booming,” reports Susan Wang, CentroSolar America senior manager of marketing, who also works out of Hacienda. “Government incentives have made us much more competitive. In the past, other energy sources have been artificially subsidized through pricing that does not take into account the full costs of delivering energy to the doorstep, especially clean-up costs. Now, with new government policies, the numbers for solar are starting to match up in some parts of the country,” she states, noting that they still have “a way to go in other regions.”  

With manufacturing facilities in Wismar, Germany, the company focuses on easy-to-install, roof-mounted photovoltaic systems for private homes. Its solar panels are very environmentally friendly, Wang points out. In contrast to some newer thin film products that are made with chemicals that can create disposal problems, “all our components can be recycled and reused,” she remarks.

Where CentroSolar really shines is in its business model. “From an application standpoint, we are cutting edge,” Wang maintains. “The plan we’ve put together is very innovative in the way we reach out and bring new people into the solar industry.” 

Part of that outreach takes the form of training for the various contractors—electrical and HVAC, for example—who have the technical skills to make an easy transition to installing new PV solar systems. The interest level in entering the field is high, especially with the slowdown in home construction.

“I’ve gone to shows where a lot of contractors are out of work,” Wang relates. “This is a new market for them. Solar is a growing industry, and they are very excited about what we have to teach them.”

The company provides engineering and financing support to help small and mid-sized installers develop their business. “Smaller companies often don’t have the cash flow to wait for state and utility-offered rebates,” she comments. “We can help with that.”

CentroSolar also distinguishes itself by carrying solar panels made by other manufacturers. “It is really unusual in this sector to distribute competitors’ products, but that decision extends the options for contractors and homeowners. We also carry the racking, inverters, and other components necessary for roof installations, as well as full kits with all the parts for a rooftop solar installation,” Wang explains. 

In addition to the Hacienda office, the American organization has a finance, IT, and warehouse operation in Scottsdale, Ariz., a nationwide sales force, and an expansion into Canada underway. Globally, the company has a workforce of more than 1,000 employees. Annual revenue topped EUR 300 million in 2009. For more information, visit www.centrosolaramerica.com.

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