June 24, 2008

Solar Success Fast-Growing Borrego Christens East Coast Headquarters in Lowell

By Dan O'Brien, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Jun. 24--LOWELL -- The city found itself welcoming another byproduct of the state's "green team" yesterday.

No, not the NBA champion Boston Celtics. Rather, Gov. Deval Patrick, state legislators and others who have emphasized drawing clean-energy firms to the Bay State.

Borrego Solar Systems Inc., a fast-growing designer and installer of solar electric power systems for commercial, residential and public sector clients, welcomed about 50 area dignitaries and others to its grand opening on 205 Industrial Ave. East yesterday.

The El Cajon, Calif.-based company has six offices, with the Lowell site being the only one outside of California so far. Borrego came to the area last August, first settling into a 2,500-square-foot space in Chelmsford.

But it quickly outgrew that space.

"We expect to double our growth every year through 2012," said Chief Operations Officer and co-owner Chris Anderson.

Anderson said Borrego also plans to increase its present local workforce of 30 by 50 percent (about 15 people) by year's end. He also said the facility, which serves as Borrego's East Coast headquarters, will install enough systems to supply 2 megawatts of power to businesses and homes, generating about $16 million in revenue for the privately-held company.

"We expect about $60 million in total revenue this year," Anderson said, noting that the Lowell operation represents about a quarter of the profitable company's production.

The $60 million

in estimated total revenue this year would be up from a previously reported $27 million in 2007 and $11.5 million in 2006.

"Not only is this great for the world, it's great for Massachusetts jobs," said State Rep. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat.

During a tour of the 14,000-square-foot facility, Vice President of Development Brendan Neagle explained that Borrego doesn't manufacture solar panels; rather it acquires them, as well as other parts, then assembles complete systems for clients.

The company, in fact, relies on two nearby firms for parts, Neagle said. Marlboro-based Evergreen Solar manufactures solar panels in Devens; and Lawrence-based Solectria Renewables LLC makes photovoltaic inverters.

Other prominent clean-energy companies that have recently settled in Greater Lowell include Nuvera Fuel Cells, a manufacturer of hydrogen-powered engines, in Billerica; and Global Energy Concepts, a wind-power consultant, in Lowell's Boott Mills.

Borrego officials emphasized yesterday that they hoped to get the word out that solar power is more feasible than ever for regular homeowners. A slide show depicted projects already completed in Tewksbury, Acton, Andover and Haverhill, and a few additional residents who had expressed interest in learning more about the systems were on hand yesterday.

"How many times have you gone to pump gas, or looked at your electric bill, and wondered if there was an alternative?" questioned Lowell Mayor Bud Caulfield. "You, Borrego, provide an alternative. We salute you for it."

Anderson explained that federal and state tax credits can go a long way toward offsetting the cost of installation, roughly $35,000 for a typical three-bedroom home in Massachusetts. Massachusetts offers a $2.25 tax rebate for each watt of power installed, with the typical system being for 4,000 watts (4 megawatts). That $9,000 in savings increases further with a $1,000 state tax credit and $2,000 federal tax incentives are included. Efforts to double the federal incentive have so far stalled, however.

Commercial enterprises get a 30 percent federal tax credit for solar installations.

Two of Borrego's more prominent commercial projects are the Deer Island water treatment plant in Winthrop and WXRV-FM, a Haverhill radio station.


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