Solar company SunEdison moves to Belmont

October 10, 2011 5:08:19 PM PDT
An East Coast solar energy company moved to the Bay Area, bringing jobs, without even asking for tax incentives. A three-story formerly vacant building is the new home of SunEdison. Belmont's redevelopment agency played a role in attracting the company to California, as did recent state legislation, but no loan or money-saving deal was offered.

Local and state officials couldn't be happier to welcome a company moving its headquarters to California and creating jobs.

"We're going to invest in solar and make California not only the national leader, which it already is, we're going to make it the world leader. And we're going to do it with a company like this," said Gov. Jerry Brown.

But in the aftermath of Solyndra, what kind of deal did it take to get SunEdison to move headquarters from Maryland to Belmont? Its president said no incentive was offered by Belmont or by the state.

"At church or at the dentist, they ask me, were you a Solyndra? I can only comment that we have a different business model, and our business model isn't predicated on an innovative new technology," said SunEdison president Carlos Domenech.

The deal maker was a bill Brown signed in June that clarified the tax exemption for homeowners installing new solar systems. They won't see their properties re-assessed for the improvement. The bill's author, Assm. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, recognizes there is greater sensitivity today over government providing loans or other incentives.

"I think there will be some certainly more vetting, looking at, analyzing, studying companies that want to come, especially with this solar issue, and especially if they're in manufacturing," said Hill.

SunEdison will transfer about 100 employees from Maryland. It already has about 50 existing workers in the Bay Area. It hopes to add about 300 over time and the move to Belmont will allow them to tap into local talent.

SunEdison's main focus is making and installing utility-scale solar systems and systems for schools, prisons and commercial buildings, but it's moving into the residential market as well. It probably doesn't hurt that California is already a customer of SunEdison. SuneEdison has a contract to deploy solar energy at five state prisons. It already installed a system at the Cal State Chico campus.


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