SONOMA COUNTY – A small but hopeful mix of new solar providers have appeared in Sonoma County following the introduction of the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program.For some, like San Rafael- and Hopland-based Real Goods, the measure is an added incentive to the convenience of a centrally located branch."The Sonoma County Energy Independence Program is so strong it makes sense to open a satellite operation there," said Mr. Schaeffer, Real Goods CEO. The company has leased a space in Santa Rosa and will install a staff of seven or eight, he said.Others have started up new companies or located a branch in the county in direct response to the measure, which is proving popular with homeowners looking to go solar without a huge cash outlay.The county funds the initial installation, and property owners pay it off over time along with their property taxes.Sequoia Solar is headquartered in San Diego with branches in Palm Desert, which has an energy independence program, Riverside and now Santa Rosa. Since opening its doors Aug. 1, the branch has already taken on seven local hires and is looking for five more."We sold 15 projects in six weeks," said Regional Sales Manager Eric Theriot. "We're looking to develop two strong teams as quickly as we can."Sales are predominantly residential and SCEIP-funded, generating an average of 5 kilowatt AC, he said.Solar Universe has an unusual model: It's a franchise operation, the first of its kind in the state, local franchisees believe.Long-time building developer Paul Kruetzfeldt, his son Keith and daughter-in-law Dawn, both former HP and Agilent employees, opened their doors late in September."We were looking for a business to purchase," said Ms. Kruetzfeldt. "Paul has a master's of electricity, Keith is an electrical engineer, and I'm a materials engineer, although my work at HP and Agilent was in organization and project management."The Kreutzfeldts met a representative of Livermore-based Solar Universe at the Sebastopol Solar Fair and were attracted to the idea of gaining deep discounts on solar equipment through volume buying."Our six local employees have a long history of solar installs among them, so it's not as though we're inexperienced," said Ms. Kreutzfeldt.Most of the team's jobs are residential at this point, and most all funded by SCEIP, even when they have the money to cover the installation, she said. "In this economy it makes sense to hold onto your cash."Two project engineers at Los Gatos-based Akeena Solar's Santa Rosa office jumped ship in early June to form Westcoast Solar Electric in Rohnert Park. The rest of the Santa Rosa Akeena team followed shortly.The company has 14 employees now, all local residents."We were the leading team for the leading solar installer in the U.S.," said Westcoast President Nate Gulbransen."We looked around and saw a lot of money invested in solar by Sonoma County residents and business leaving the county, going to companies headquartered elsewhere."He and his partner didn’t think Akeena was moving quickly enough to take advantage of opportunities offered by SCEIP.Westcoast was profitable the moment it opened its doors at the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster in Rohnert Park, he said."This is a very unique market. People do a lot of research before deciding on an installation, and they're not an easy sell. But there's a lot of great sales talent in the county, released by dying industries."We want to be the hometown solar team," said Mr. Gulbransen.