(Photo gallery) SolarCity opens operations center near Newark

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SolarCity, Thursday, cut the ribbon at its second operations center in the Pencader Corporate Center in the Glasgow area south of Newark.

On hand were local government officials and Gov. Jack Markell. The ribbon cutting ceremony was conducted by the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.

SolarCity opened its first Delaware operations center in Seaford about a year ago. Solar City has about 70 centers. Click here for previous Business Daily stories on Solar City and solar power in the state.

The Newark center’s regional operations manager is Jim Kelley. Kelley has worked in the solar installation business in the state for a number of years.

Markell told those on hand that he is pleased with the expansion of SolarCity, a company that offers a way for homeowners to add solar power without major  upfront costs.

The governor noted that he paid far higher costs when installing solar in his home.

“The future of solar in Delaware is bright and we remained focused on being the leader in the adoption of renewable energy,” Markell said.

In return for the reduced installation cost, SolarCity shares a portion of the business or home owner’s revenue from solar power when it is fed into the electric grid.

Consumers and businesses are advised to check out whether paying the upfront costs or going with a supplier, like Solar City, makes the most sense.

Solar City now has about 90 employees in Delaware, with plans to add another 50 positions.

The hirings are good news for Delaware, which saw the closing last year  of the Motech plant near the 9,000-square-foot space now occupied by Solar City.

A pioneer in solar energy, Delaware was the home of AstroPower, a company founded by a University of Delaware researcher. Assets of that company were later sold to GE, which then sold the Pencader operations to Taiwan-based Motech.

Motech continues to operate a headquarters operation  in New Castle.

The solar manufacturing industry has seen sharp reductions in the cost of cells that has led to charges of “dumping” Chinese-made solar cells sold in the U.S. and plant closings.

On the plus side, the lower costs have made solar power increasingly competitive. Solar remains the least controversial   energy option in a state mandate calling for a quarter of all energy production to come from alternative sources. The mandate has been blamed in some quarters for consumers paying   high energy prices in the state.

Solar City officials see a potentially strong market with installations on the many thousands of rooftops in northern Delaware. They also hope to see the trend reported elsewhere of homeowners moving to solar once one of their neighbors installs panels.

High heating bills for some customers during the past couple of winters might also spur some consumers to look at solar.

Solar City was co-founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is best known for also founding electric car maker Tesla and Space X, a company that flies unmanned cargo rockets.

Solar City is testing out Tesla technology on a battery power back-up system for some homes in the San Francisco Bay area, according to the company’s website.

Click here for a recent Bloomberg story on the company and its successful effort to expand solar use in Hawaii. The electric utility in the state lifted a moratorium on new hook-ups after it was determined that the grid could handle far more solar power than originally estimated.

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