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Down to Business: Novato Company Introduces Next Generation of Floating Solar Panels

SPG Solar Floatovoltaics expands options for users with limited land; gourmet food manufacturing company leaves Novato; Whole Foods to open beer & wine tasting area; Safeway audits gas pumps at Hamilton.

Novato-based SPG Solar has introduced its next generation of floating solar panels, redesigned to be cost competitive with ground based, single-axis tracking solar systems, according to Chris Robine, president and CEO.

"The panels have gone through a holistic redesign of the footing array and use less materials, reducing costs," said Jennifer Monteleone, vice president of strategic marketing.  

“In addition, when they are replaced, the materials are completely recyclable,” said Monteleone.

SPG Solar Floatovoltaics make it possible for commercial, industrial and government users with little available rooftop or land space to float solar on water.  The company said that this provides triple benefits:  energy savings, water savings and environmental benefits.

The technology reduces water evaporation by 70 percent and reduced algae growth is an added benefit. “One percent more solar energy is produced versus a ground mounted system because the water keeps the solar panels at optimum temperature,” Monteleone said.  

Monteleone said the product has particular appeal in the agricultural industry where usable land is at a premium.

“Farmers, wineries, anyone with fresh water ponds including water agencies and waste water treatment plants, have all expressed interest,” she said.

In the Bay Area, SPG Solar has installed the floating solar panels at Far Niente winery in Napa and Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma. 

Gundlach Bundschu’s marketing director Susan Sueiro said that the floating panels provide all of the power to their wastewater recycling system, which is part of their green program.

The application is also being considered in the mining industry. 

“Mining industries where they have pulled gravel or other aggregate material out of the ground and refill the whole with water can also use floating solar panels to produce energy,” Moneteleone said.

She also notes that the technology has benefits in countries with high water conservation goals or where water is scarce.

“We’ve had international interest from Australia and the Middle East,” she said.

SPG Solar is headquartered in the Bel Marin Keys industrial park and consists of parent company SPG Holding and TTi design and manufacturing. Formed in 2001, the company has 125 full-time employees throughout their regional offices in Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Oregon.

Torn Ranch Heads to Petaluma

Torn Ranch, a gourmet food company based in Bel Marin Keys, is leaving Novato for a new commercial space in Petaluma.

“July is our expected departure but it will depend on when tenant improvements can be completed,” said Dean Morrow, president of Torn Ranch.

Morrow said that the move will help consolidate the company from two buildings into a single building, give them more space and allow room for expansion.

According to leasing agent Michael Lieberman of Cornish & Carey Commercial, the company will leave their current building which has 14,400 square feet of warehouse space and 4,000 square feet of office space on Leveroni Court. 

Additionally, the company has a second building in Bel Marin Keys that it will be vacating.

Torn Ranch sells gourmet nuts, dried fruit and gift baskets for the hospitality industry, wholesale and through its website.

The company was started thiry years ago and had a retail operation in San Rafael.  It made a name for itself with its with its jumbo cashews and Mashuga Nuts, cinnamon spiced pecans. 

Morrow said that although they searched, they were unable to find a building with enough space and room for expansion. 

“We wanted something that met those requirements and found it in Petaluma,” said Morrow.  “Petaluma has a lot of commercial buildings available,” he said. 

Whole Foods Market To Offer Wine/Beer Tasting Area

On May 12 the city of Novato gave its approval on application to sell and pour beer and wine in a new tasting area at the store at De Long and Reichert avenues. The store has an application for a state liquor license in process and is expecting approval within four to six weeks, according to the applicant.

The 150-square-foot tasting area will be set up near the specialty department and will be used for demos from wineries and breweries as well as store-initiated demos and pairings, according to Whole Foods spokesperson, Jennifer Marples.

According to the permit application, the company plans to staff the area with employees who have passed an accredited alcohol server training program. 

Marples said that the wine/beer tasting areas has been successful in their Napa and Santa Rosa/Coddingtown location.

“There are always crowds during happy hour,” Marples said in an e-mail.

Safeway Audits Pump Speed at Hamilton Gas Station

Recently, a Safeway employee armed with a stopwatch and log-sheet was spotted performing an audit of the speed it takes to get gas at the . But according to a company spokesperson, the audit was routine and customers shouldn’t expect any changes to the pumps.

Company spokesperson Susan Houghton said the company normally does audits to check customer service but that they haven’t received any specific complaints about the speed of the pumps at Hamilton’s Safeway.

“Because the pumps are checking for the club card discount, there is an added step in the process, said Houghton.  “But once you start pumping your gas, it’s very fast.”   

Novato Patch business columnist Nancy O'Neill is on hiatus, so Tracey Ruiz is filling in. Future story tips can be e-mailed to Tracey by clicking on her byline.

Mark g May 24, 2011 at 01:53 AM
The lag seems really slow when I'm awarded 3% discount. Transactions speed up at 10% off!
Marla May 24, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Yes and for those of us who need to key in a phone number, it seems to take FOREVER. But the discount is worth the wait.
Susan Wreden May 24, 2011 at 04:33 PM
How can Torn Ranch have started in 1999? I remember buying their stuff in the 80's.
Tracey Ruiz May 24, 2011 at 05:59 PM
Correction: The company Torn Ranch was started thirty years ago, according to their website. It was later acquired by its current owners.

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