Going mainstream

Solar-energy outfit AEE Solar thrives, expands in Sacramento

Local outfit AEE Solar recently opened a new 63,000-square-foot facility in Natomas, which will bring dozens of green-energy jobs to Sacramento, and process more than 50,000 outbound shipments annually.

Local outfit AEE Solar recently opened a new 63,000-square-foot facility in Natomas, which will bring dozens of green-energy jobs to Sacramento, and process more than 50,000 outbound shipments annually.

Photo By Photo courtesy of AEE SOLAR

Last year, The Solar Foundation, a more than three-decade-old nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., released its second-annual job report on the solar industry. For the first time, more than 100,000 people in the country had jobs in the solar field. More than one-quarter of the jobs, or 25,575, were in California.

And, because it’s an affordable place to do business, Sacramento, according to local energy outfit AEE Solar, is an attractive destination within the state.

“I can’t speak for other companies, but Sacramento … [is] an epicenter for the green-business environment, and it’s a vibrant business community, overall,” said Ben Higgins, who directs government affairs for AEE and two sister companies. “It’s an efficient and affordable place to own a business.”

One of the nation’s top distributors of solar-energy systems and equipment, AEE Solar takes pride in being efficient. Although headquartered in San Luis Obispo, several of the company’s Northern California operation and distribution spots were recently consolidated into one facility in Natomas. This includes a new 63,000-square-foot location at 1227 Striker Avenue (near the intersection of Interstate 80 and Truxel Road), which will process more than 30,000 outbound shipments a year.

The shipments will serve AEE Solar’s distribution partners in all 50 states and provide solar panels, racking, and equipment for sister company REC Solar’s regional installation branches in California, Hawaii, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado and New Jersey.

Needless to say, the new AEE Solar location meant and will continue to mean good things for the local job market.

Founded in 1979 as Alternative Energy Engineering by David Katz, the company began, according to its website, “with the goal of bringing renewable, non-polluting power to homes and businesses in our foothills community in the northern California coastal redwood region.” Two years ago, AEE Solar employed about 45 people at its Sacramento warehouse. With the recent local growth, however, it now has more than 65 employees, with an additional 17 to 20 hires expected by the end of the year.

About half of the total employees work in managing inbound and outbound shipments, a quarter in sales and customer service, and the rest in production and light assembly.

The new Natomas facility, which was unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 13, featured remarks by Lee Johnson, CEO of Mainstream Energy Corporation, AEE Solar’s parent company, which also has a local presence in the Sacramento area and more than 700 employees nationwide. AEE Solar’s sibling is REC Solar, which specializes in grid-tied residential and commercial installations and its vendors vary from school districts to regional Costco centers.

AEE Solar chose Sacramento, and specifically Natomas, for reasons well-known in the industry: California is the nation’s solar leader in several key areas. It has the most solar-related companies, the most employees working in the solar industry and the most solar-power output created by those companies.

Combined, AEE and its sister companies have compiled impressive statistics, which Higgins likes to point out.

“Our company has branches in six states, has installed solar systems—more than 8,000 total—in 16 states and Puerto Rico, and through AEE Solar sells solar equipment to all 50 states,” said Higgins, who worked in Sacramento for 10 years and then relocated to San Luis Obispo a few years ago. “We’ve also installed solar on approximately 700 homes and a number of businesses in Sacramento.

“Together, our strategy of installing solar, selling solar and manufacturing solar equipment via multiple brands makes us more competitive and cost efficient. And it helps us bring solar power to the mainstream.”