[caption id="attachment_84003" align="alignnone" width="500"] A SolarCity crew installed panels on this home in Corte Madera. (Photo: SolarCity)[/caption]

PETALUMA -- San Mateo-based SolarCity (Nasdaq: SCTY) opened a new warehouse and office in Petaluma and plans up to 20 hires there as part of the company's broader push to open a network of smaller hubs for solar-panel installations throughout California.

The Petaluma facility will serve much of the broader North Bay, an area previously served just by a large warehouse in Berkeley. With the new warehouse and others opened throughout California, the company hopes to reduce drive time to residential and commercial rooftop solar jobs to between 15 and 45 minutes for the majority of customers, according to Brady Cox, regional operations manager.

"You can imagine, Berkeley to Cloverdale," said Mr. Cox, himself a Cloverdale native.

The Petaluma location will allow crews to more easily serve Sonoma, Napa, Lake and northern Marin counties, he said.

"We're hiring, we're growing. We couldn't be happier to have a presence here," he said.

Around 30 existing employees will move to the new facility, a 6,000-square-foot warehouse leased at 1362 N. McDowell Blvd. Around 1,500 square feet will be dedicated to office space, with the remainder used to house hardware and equipment for photovoltaic equipment, he said.

The facility has launched with three installation crews of five workers each, but could grow to around six crews in the coming year, he said. The group hopes to have average one installation job every day, with 350 kilowatts of capacity installed per month and between 600 and 700 kilowatts in the near future.

 SolarCity hired around 400 people in October, bringing its total company staff to around 4,000, said spokeswoman Molly Canales. The company employs around 2,100 in California, and has operations in 13 states.

The company also announced opening similar "operation centers" in Ventura, Chico, Livermore, Martinez, Morgan Hill, Murrieta, San Luis Obispo, Palm Springs and Victorville before the end of the year, bringing  its total locations to 24. SolarCity also opened its largest-ever operations centers this year, with a 35,000-square-foot facility in Riverside and an 18,000-square-foot facility in Stockton.