Berkeley Bowl West, Solar Power, and a Huge Rebate Check


This Friday (September 4th) will be a big day for Berkeley Bowl West, a green supermarket located in West Berkeley. In fact, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, PG&E reps, and Sun Light & Power President Gary Gerber will join the supermarket’s owners in celebration. What’s the big deal? Berkeley Bowl West is receiving a $167,029 solar energy rebate check from PG&E following the construction of its new solar-powered building. (The public is invited to attend the rebate-receiving ceremony, which will take place at noon on Friday at 920 Heinz Street in Berkeley.) In addition to rewarding sustainable building and business practices, the rebate highlights the Bay Area’s commitment to green development and the role of small businesses in supporting that commitment.

The new 140,000 square-foot Berkeley Bowl West facility is equipped with 636 solar panels – one of more than 1,000 solar installations completed by Sun Light & Power – which are expected to produce 149,633 kilowatts of electricity per year. This electricity will power the electrical needs of Berkeley Bowl West’s numerous operations, including its kitchen, wine tasting bar, café, warehouses, and offices. The company’s implementation of solar energy is fitting, given its history of eco-consciousness. (Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley Bowl West’s parent store, has always provided organic and local food items.)

Sun Light & Power, too, is a stand-out (certified) green business in the Berkeley area. Its commitment is simple: “to create a living environment that serves people’s intrinsic needs, supports the human spirit and preserves the planet’s resources for future generations.” If it is able to continue realizing this ideal, and if local businesses continue to sign up for such services, it is likely the Bay Area’s sustainable industry will continue to grow.

What does this solar energy story say about the area’s bigger green business picture? I would argue, first, that (as a small example) Berkeley Bowl West isn’t the first grocery Sun Light & Power has helped go green. (The power firm has also helped the Natural Grocery Company in El Cerrito install a solar system.) Moreover, while green operations are definitely the “in thing” in the Bay Area, they are also feasible – in part, because of California’s Solar Initiative and PG&E’s solar rebates. (In fact, the utility has earned the title the most “solar-integrated utility” in the U.S.) I would also argue that the burgeoning number of small businesses going green, and the government’s increasingly-available rebates to help them do so, signals the sustainability movement’s growing momentum.

What do you think – does small businesses’ movement toward “going green” hint at a larger green movement?

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

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