Stellar Energy was founded in 2004 and hit the ground running; the company quickly grew to become one of the country’s foremost large distributed generation solar power experts by providing end-to-end solar solutions for commercial, industrial, agricultural and municipal clients. The company employs a team of in-house engineers and specialists to offer third-party financing and support on logistical, technical and regulatory issues to clients so that even the largest solar development projects feel like a breeze.
“Our relationship with our parent company enables us to have a buying power, and a bonding and insurance capacity that is extraordinary for a company of our size,” says Matt Lugar, vice president of sales and marketing at Stellar Energy. Stellar Energy headquarters are located in Rohnert Park, Calif., with additional branches in Sacramento, Calif., and Cranbury, N.J. The lion’s share of Stellar Energy’s work is concentrated within California and Nevada, but the recent expansions into Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado and Texas have become key target growth areas for the company.
Fortune Global 500 company ITOCHU International acquired a majority interest in Stellar Energy in 2009, giving the team the bonding and insuring capacity to develop even larger scale utility projects, which isn’t Stellar Energy’s only advantage. Stellar Energy’s sister companies, DC Power and Solar Depot, provides the team with the ability to develop projects with some of the lowest levelized cost of energy (LCOE) in the industry.
“We’re always working towards grid parity,” expands Lugar. “We want to see solar energy become as affordable as traditional energy sources so we’re always looking to see how we can bring our LCOE down at all times.” The ideal solar array will offset the client’s needs by 100 percent and Stellar Energy develops every system to come as close to that goal as feasibly possible based on physical site and electrical constraints.
Leading by Example
Stellar Energy has a strong track record of success; the company worked with landlord Codding Enterprises and added 1.158 megawatts of capacity to the existing 1.14 megawatts of solar power generating capacity on the rooftops at company headquarters. Sonoma Mountain Village, which is owned by Codding Enterprises, is a 600,000-square foot mixed-use development determined to turn its own headquarters into a beacon of large-scale renewable power.
“We now have a total of 4,928 solar panels installed on two of five rooftops in our campus, but it took a lot of hard work to pull off,” states Lugar. The project was original hindered by a restriction on the California Solar Incentive program, which requires all systems to interconnect to the electrical grid to qualify for the rebates. Stellar Energy ultimately designed a solution that added the desired 1.158 megawatts of power complete with a new electrical meter and two additional photovoltaic arrays, totaling over 181,000 square feet – or just less than four acres – of rooftop solar modules.
The project was the largest to date in Sonoma County, financed in part by the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP). Stellar Energy estimates that the system will save the client over $200,000 annually in electricity costs. Stellar Energy also included an online solar system monitoring tool, which displays the systems’ performance in real time for total operating transparency.
Solar Power Saviors
The team at Stellar Energy wrapped up work on one of its most meaningful projects to date this last fall, completing the installation of over 3.1 megawatts of solar energy for Pittsburg Unified School District in Pittsburg, Calif. “We’ve installed systems at 14 different high schools, middle schools and elementary schools within the district that will greatly reduce the school district’s electrical bills,” adds Lugar.
The recent economic downturn brought additional pressure to the school district’s budget and, instead of sacrificing funding for important academic and recreational programming, the school district turned to Stellar Energy to help offset its energy needs and relieve pressure on the district’s operating expenses. Stellar Energy designed a solution where 13,000 panels could be installed on a series of 52 sunshade structures. The system won’t make the school district completely energy independent, but it will reduce the school’s electrical bill by an estimated 90 percent and produce over 100,000 megawatt hours of clean, renewable energy in the next 30 years.
Powering the Future
Stellar Energy is also working behind the scenes to make movie history. “We are just completing a solar project for Lightstorm Entertainment Inc., which is designed to supply all of the power needed to film and produce the next two Avatar sequels at their Manhattan Beach Studios (MBS) location,” says Lugar.
Lightstorm Entertainment Inc. leased three stages at MBS Media Campus in Southern California and selected Stellar Energy to engineer and install three large rooftop PV systems. The PV systems combined deliver over 964 kilowatts of power, possibly making the upcoming Avatar sequels the only movies made with 100-percent solar power.
Even though the company has made headlines and significant headway for feasible solar energy solutions, Stellar Energy will continue to stay light on its feet in anticipation of future market needs. “We anticipate a lot of growth in the next three to five years with larger projects in the one- to 20-megawatt range around the United States,” states Lugar.
Trends are shifting toward large-scale utility projects and the company’s ability to make solar energy projects of many sizes financially feasible will ensure Stellar Energy’s growth through the toughest economic climates. Backed by the some of the most competitive pricing in the country and a commitment to customer service, Stellar Energy will continue to prove solar power’s economic viability and push for solar power price parity with the grid.
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