Seed money starting to show fruit

November 11, 2009 at 7:23 pm 1 comment

Riverside Public Utilities’ commitment to supporting the development of solar energy within the city extends beyond the rebates and other programs designed to foster the creation of rooftop solar projects on homes and businesses.

The utility also is a major contributor to a new research center at UC Riverside that is designed to spur the creation of the next generation of solar technology and make solar energy more of a reality around the region and the world.

The Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy (SC-RISE) held a kick-off event recently that was attended by Mayor Ron Loveridge and several members of the RPU staff. The city contingent also met prior to the kick-off event with about 50 UCR researchers, students, industry leaders and business people to share information about how SC-RISE can help transform the solar energy industry.

The city’s utility provided a $100,000 seed grant to help create SC-RISE and is working with key personnel from the research facility to further the development of the center, which is based within the Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT).

“This is really an exciting moment, the beginning of a major research center,” Mayor Loveridge told the group that met prior to the kick-off event. “Thank you for being part of the seminal meeting of what is going to be a world-class center.”

SC-RISE will combine research, prototyping and applications, and education, training and demonstration uses, according to Dr. Matthew Barth, who is Director of CE-CERT and will lead the SC-RISE effort. The facility will work closely with utilities, unions and trade organizations, alternative energy developers and other academic institutions, including Tohoku University in Riverside’s Sister City of Sendai, Japan, Barth said.

“It is music to our ears to be working in a city that has such a forward-thinking view on renewable energy,” Dr. Barth said.

Riverside Public Utilities already is seeing an increase in the amount of solar installations around the city, with homeowners and business owners buoyed by tax incentives and rebates offered by the city and other government agencies.

“I think we are going to look back in a few years and see where this year ended up being a game-changer,” said Mike Bacich, the utility’s customer relations/marketing manager and sustainability officer for the city.

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