This month marks our 40th Anniversary!
Gary Gerber, proud founder
We all want to express our sincere gratitude to you, our vendors, clients, employees and family who have supported us along the way.
It occurs to me that starting a solar company in 1976 and remaining in the solar design and installation business for 40 straight years may well be a feat unmatched by any solar company in the state. Others may have dabbled in solar in the early years, or bowed out during the tough times and returned later, but Sun Light & Power was founded as a solar design and installation company from day one and we have continuously been in the business of designing, installing and servicing active and passive solar systems ever since.
We started out installing solar water heating systems for homes, with the help of the original 10% federal Energy Investment Tax Credit. Our first paying customer was– who else? – my parents in Walnut Creek. We built that first solar water heating system based on a design that I developed when I was studying engineering at Cal; we used a redwood frame, surplus copper sheeting from the Integral Urban House in Berkeley, and a glazing made from clear 8’ fluorescent lighting tubes (don’t ask), for a whopping $1,000. That system lasted almost 20 years, though it did freeze once, and I only removed it when my dad sold the home in the mid-90’s.
Those early years were challenging – I remember many times having to tell a potential customer that “Yes, the sun really can make your water hot enough to take a shower!” In the 1970’s few people believed that it was possible. But the truth is that a flat plate collector will easily boil water if left out in the sun for just a few hours.
Back then, our vision for the future was pretty simple: we wanted to be able to look out over any US city and see solar panels on every roof.
Now, 40 years later, as a California Benefit Corp, our goals are a bit more sophisticated; besides promoting a solar future for all, we are now committed to using our company as a force for good by proliferating the good business practices that sustainably support our environment, provide generously for our team members, and enrich the community we live in. These Benefit Corporation ideals are built on values that Sun Light & Power had adopted well before any B Corp certifications were available, and years before the state of California even recognized the Benefit Corporation. That’s why I was waiting outside of the Secretary of State’s office on January 3, 2012 to make Sun Light & Power one of the first 15 California corporations to be certified as a California Benefit Corporation. And last year we earned the “Best for the World” award from B Lab, which means that we met their gold standard for high impact companies. We were recognized for overall, environmental, community and worker impact, earning a score in the top 10% on the rigorous B Impact Assessment.
So, you may wonder, after 40 years of running this remarkable company, what’s next?
Another 40 years, I hope, but obviously not with me at the helm for that whole time. I consider Sun Light & Power to be my legacy, and have been thinking for several years now about how to secure that legacy. I have come to the conclusion that the best way is to turn over the reins to the team that built Sun Light & Power into the business that it is today. So Barb and I are now transitioning Sun Light & Power to worker ownership. What better legacy for me to leave than a well-respected, vigorous, profitable, sustainable, worker-owned business that provides 70 souls gainful employment every day where they can contribute to their community and raise families in this very expensive Bay Area. We are working right now on the details of how we want to govern the company cooperatively, and fortunately we know of several examples of solar cooperatives that have blazed the trail ahead of us. Look for more news about our progress over the next few months.
So, again, thank you for helping in your own way to green the environment, and thanks for your support of Sun Light & Power, whether you are a customer or a vendor or a service provider or a Team member – all of you are an essential part of the web of sustainability that we are striving to build. You are part of the solution, and we thank you sincerely for that!