Under Itochu ownership, Rohnert Park distributor hires, beefs up products

[caption id="attachment_22524" align="alignright" width="347" caption="ynergy Solar owner Jeff Mathias, left, installs a system with panels supplied by DC Power. (credit Synergy Solar)"][/caption]

ROHNERT PARK – DC Power Systems is in growth mode, bulking up its staff and product portfolio under Japanese owner Itochu Corp.

The leading distributor of clean-energy products in the Americas has sustained revenue growth of 50 percent for the past two years. Projected revenues for 2010 are more than $200 million.

Recently moved from its Healdsburg digs into 30,000 square feet of office and warehouse space in the Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park, DC Power has added 55 employees in the last six months. According to vice president of marketing Chris Phipps, at least 20 more will join the staff of 140 before the end of the year.

"As a frame of reference, when I joined the company in late 2006 we had 26 employees," he said.

DC Power supplies solar panels and system products to most of the North Bay's solar providers and distributes local clean-energy products to 5,000 contractor customers throughout the U.S., Canada and South America.

Enphase Energy microinverters, Gridlock Solar security systems, Solmetric solar test and measurement equipment and Xandex SunMizer solar output booster are some of the local companies that benefit from having a major distributor in the neighborhood.

"Our products are featured in DC Power's catalogs, which go out to about 10,000 contractors," said Tyson Berg, Gridlock's director of business development. "We have our own page on their website."

DC Power distributes wind turbines and hydro-electric systems, but 85 percent of its products are solar panels and system components, mostly from Japan-based Sharp Electronics.

Last week the company announced an agreement to sell solar equipment from Yingli Green Energy Americas, Inc., a subsidiary of corporate giant Yingli of China. It's one of the largest supply agreements for Yingli Americas this year.

China is the leading manufacturer of solar panels, which tend to cost about 10 percent less than panels from non-Chinese companies, according to Mr. Phipps.

"For large installations, the price savings can be considerable, so many contractors prefer to buy Chinese products," he said.

DC Power was courted by many Chinese manufacturers before selecting Yingli for its high-quality, reliable modules and strong product warranty commitments, said Daniel Marino, founder of DC Power and currently executive vice president.

The contract with Yingli runs through the end of 2010, but Mr. Marino and executives of both Yingli China and Yingli Americas spoke of a long-term partnership.

Globally, the market for solar products was about $25 billion in 2009, down from $40 billion the year before when panels were in shorter supply, according to BankAmerica Merrill-Lynch analysts. The Solar Energy Industries Association said residential grid-connected photovoltaic installations are showing particularly strong growth, with projected increases of 100 percent.