Thursday, March 22, 2007

Solar Savings

Solar Savings -- Cookware Center Powers Operations With the Sun
By Barry Eberling

Nelda Mundy Elementary third-grader Trevor Stout, 8, climbs into a PG&E truck bucket so he could get a closer look at the new solar power system on the roof of the Meyer Corporation. (Photo by Christine Baker)

FAIRFIELD - Meyer Corp., U.S. is using the power of the sun to help ship cookware from its massive distribution center in Solano Business Park.

The Vallejo-based company on Wednesday dedicated its $4 million rooftop solar energy project at the Fairfield center. About 2,790 solar panels covering 51,000 square feet generate enough electricity to power 670 homes, a PG&E press release said.

"I personally am delighted to be part of a solar power system that will have a positive impact on the environment," Meyer Chief Executive Officer Stanley Cheng told a few dozen people gathered for the occasion, among them Fairfield Mayor Harry Price.

Meyer distributes cookware and other kitchen products made by affiliated factories worldwide. Among its brands are Farberware, Rachel Ray, Anolon and KitchenAid.

The solar panels will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 167 tons in one year, said Mike Rummelhoff, vice president of operations. That's the equivalent of planting 50 trees, removing 34 cars from the road or not driving 606,000 miles, he said.

Over 30 years, the numbers jump to 1,500 trees, 1,000 cars and 18.2 million miles, he said.

Fairfield the previous day had experienced cloudy weather. Even so, the system produced 300 kilowatts of its 580 kilowatt capacity, Rummelhoff said.

Meyer officials also see business advantages to having the system, which is manufactured by Berkeley-based PowerLight Corp.

The company is getting a $1.4 million rebate from PG&E and a 30 percent federal tax incentive, Rummelhoff said. The system has a 25-year warranty and will pay for itself in seven years, he said.

"We have about 18 years of free electricity," Rummelhoff said.

Company officials were alarmed with electricity cutbacks during California's power crisis in the early decade, Cheng said.

"We couldn't believe it," Cheng said. "Perhaps the most high-tech economy in the world and we had an energy supply problem."

Cheng's advocacy of solar power goes beyond the Meyer project. He is also using the sun to power his house and to power the irrigation and other systems at his Hestan Vineyards, both in Napa Valley.

Meyer is looking at opening a solar panel manufacturing plant somewhere in the world and starting a solar-grade silicon refining factory, Cheng said.

"My hope is other companies in our area and the world will choose to take advantage of the greatest power source available to us: The sun," Cheng said.

If solar power is a trend, that trend is just beginning to take hold locally. Solano County in 2003 installed 1,312 solar panels at its Health and Social Services building, Vallejo in 2003 installed 1,700 panels to power a water pumping station and homes at Edenbridge in Vacaville are solar powered, among other examples.

PG&E since 2002 has given out about $200 million in solar rebates for 400 projects, said Jennifer Ramp, a spokeswoman for the utility. Only about a dozen projects have gotten bigger rebates than Meyer, she said.

Meyer Corp. has about 120 employees in both Fairfield and Vallejo.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

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