Solar Company Interested in DISC – If Voters Approve It

By David M. Greenwald

One of the questions many have asked is if the voters approve DISC next week, what companies would have an interest of locating there.  One company with interest is PV Evolution Labs—which already have locations in Berkeley and South San Francisco, as well as Davis.

The solar farm in north Davis on Covell is theirs.  And CEO Jenya Meydbray told the Vanguard of their interest in the DISC location, should voters approve the project.

“The facility we have in Davis is an outdoor testing center, it’s 10 acres of grid-connected, behind the fence kind of outdoor lab,” he said.  “We put next gen equipment out there and see how it performs in the real world.”

He said that Davis is a great place for this testing—with large amounts of sun.  “It is more consistent weatherwise where solar is being installed in the Central Valley,” he said.

That site, he explained, “is the first solar testing center in the US.  It was built originally in 1986.  We stepped into it in 2011.”

It was originally built by PG&E in 1986 to study solar at that time.  He noted, “The city of Davis has a deep history in solar.”

The ten-year-old company, founded in 2010, focuses on reliability and focus testing of solar equipment, including solar panels, solar converters, and battery systems.  Power storage, he explained is an industry that is growing up along side solar right now.

“The majority of what we do is focus on qualifying vendors and products on behalf of large scale institutional vendors,” he said.  “For example, if Wells Fargo or JP Morgan are going to invest in a large solar power plant in the desert or across 5000 residential roof tops, then we do reliability testing on the panels which are mostly coming from Asian manufacturers to see if they can last for the service life.”

This is part of the emerging clean technology field.  There has been a lot of focus on alternative energy, but one of the keys with making solar a viable energy source is the ability to store that energy for use when needed, rather than be bound by times when energy is able to be generated.

That is part of where PV Evolution Labs, or PVEL, steps in.

They are interested in expanding their current facilities in Davis to do indoor testing—but to do that there must be suitable facilities which, right now, there are not.

Meydbray told the Vanguard that they are keenly interested in the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus.

“I think this large research center is something that a university town like Davis is lacking,” he said.  “We’re fully supportive of the local renewable tech industry growing and looking forward to being a part of it.”

He explained that, in addition to their outdoor lab testing, they also do indoor testing.  DISC, he said, “does provide for high tech, indoor, very nice facilities.  We are exploring expansion in the facility there.”

Meydbray explained, “We are an old fashioned nuts and bolts business.”  He said, “You can’t do it remotely, it’s not just software.”  He added, “We’re kind of like an old fashioned manufacturing facility.”

He said they currently have just under 25,000 square feet.  “The solar industry in the US is growing by leaps and bounds,” he explained.  “We are riding that wave as the solar industry expands.  We have aggressive expansion plans as well.”

They would be looking to expand into something in the tens of thousands of square feet—not the hundreds of thousands, and not the single digit thousands.

Meydbray said, “As the Bay Area becomes more and more unsustainable—from a financial perspective—there is a move to grow further out and I think that Davis is well situated to be a bit of a technology hub that is close enough to the Bay Area and far enough from the Bay Area to be its own tech hub.”

Meydbray added, “I would argue it’s exactly the right time to invest in building a sustainable research center when looking at the growth rate of the solar industry, the wind industry, the energy storage industry.”

He said, “You could wait ten years and see what happens then, but then the new tech hubs and leaders in that space will have emerged.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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      1. Matt Williams

        The timeline for PVEL at the BrightNight location was 2-3 years … 2 years for completion of the Cal ISO application process, and 1 year to build the solar farm.  The 2 years included completion of the County CEQA review process as well.

        As I said below … very interesting.

        1. David Greenwald

          If Measure B passes, their timeline might not be that much different. My 4 to 5 years assumed two years application and two year build out. They might be able to build theirs more quickly.

          1. David Greenwald

            You have to lay the infrastructure first. Housing can’t even go to Planning Commission before there is 200,000 square feet of commercial.

  1. Matt Williams

    Very interesting … on several levels.

    PVEL was a very active participant in the BrightNight discussions with the City, and was supposed to be locating its Davis facility at the proposed BrightNight solar farm at the wastewater treatment plant. This announcement of interest in locating at DISC is a significant departure from that.

    The e-mails that the City produced in response to a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request clearly document that PVEL was the party that actually introduced BrightNight to the City, and brought BrightNight into the closed session discussions.

    That sounds like the “bird in the hand” BrightNight project may be having problems in its application process with the California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) … “the electrical grid” operators.  Very interesting.

  2. Richard McCann

    PV Evolution Labs was part of the BrightNight debacle. I’m not sure how much we can credence we should give their commitment. They are also small potatoes in  the solar field, which is increasingly crowded. Their market is testing and rating of PV panels, not exactly innovative rocket science.

    Also, they have no connection to UCD’s agricultural or food sciences, which would seem to be the most important aspect of attracting the agglomeration of companies to Davis needed to actually enable growth of a key and unique technology center in the region. Placing this company there detracts from the overall potential of the DISC site.

    1. Alan Miller

      . . . credence we should give their commitment.

      Commitment?  Hardly.  It’s ‘interest’.  As in, Alan Miller is ‘interested’ in being mayor of Davis.

  3. Don Shor

    So we have a possible confirmed tenant for DISC, and immediately Davis residents begin disparaging them.

    If anyone wonders why economic development lags in Davis, just look at the comments on this thread.

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