Daily BulletinJuly 5, 201967
A Claremont-based nonprofit received more than $2 million in state funding to create a solar panel factory in Pomona.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the 2019-2020 state budget on Thursday, June 27, allocating $2.1 million to Locally Grown Power, a Community Home Energy Retrofit Project program, that will provide free solar panels to low income homeowners.
CHERP was established in 2010 to educate the community on energy efficiency, CHERP President Devon Hartman said. It’s active in Claremont and Huntington Beach and plans similar outreaches to Monrovia, Whittier and other cities around the state.
After retiring from his previous profession, Hartman realized buildings constructed in the early 2000s were among the bigger contributors to global warming because of inefficient heating, lighting and general operations. So, he took it upon himself to educate cities to “reduce before you produce”: to reduce the waste before producing more energy.
With that in mind, Hartman worked with Kent Kernahan to create and patent a more efficient solar panel.
The state funding will cover construction for the microfacility to produce patented solar panels and employ 200-plus local residents, Hartman said.
“Including indirect employment created, there will be over 700 new jobs in total at peak production,” Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-41, who helped spearhead the project, said.
The facility is a leased Pomona Unified School District building which will be retrofitted and operational by spring 2022, Hartman said. It will serve as a prototype factory by which CHERP can model future facilities across California, he said.
The assembly line will produce solar panels that will be more efficient and less expensive than competing top brand panels, Hartman added.
Studies conducted at Harvey Mudd College revealed the panels produced 59% higher real world energy yields and proved that the basic technology behind the solar panels worked, Hartman said.
Hartman said once the panels are manufactured, CHERP aims to provide 6,000 homes of low income families with solar panels at no cost, saving them an estimated $6.5 million on utilities.
“Solar power has been economically out of reach for the lowest 50-60% of the population,” he said. “If we can’t supply renewable energy for these people, we’ll never meet California’s renewable energy goals.”
Few cities are close to meeting the standards set by the state because they don’t have the funds or resources, Hartman added.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 100 in 2018, mandating 100% of electricity to come from clean sources by 2045. By 2026, half of California’s electricity will have to come from such renewable sources as the sun, wind or water.
“The California Legislature has set ambitious climate policies, and I am 100% committed to furthering our leadership role in combating climate change, but we need all Californians to be able to be part of greener energy solutions,” Holden said. “The Locally Grown Power nonprofit model gives the opportunity for more Californians to have a seat at the table and be able to support our existing legislative priorities.”
Hartman believes the money saved on utilities will increase home ownership and free up money that can be spent elsewhere, generating tax income at a local and state level.
Every dollar invested by the state will be paid back twice over in less than 10 years, Hartman added.
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