Electrical blackouts hit an all-time high in California in 2001, affecting 1.5 million customers and severely affecting Chromeworks Inc.'s turnaround times and production goals. That's when Jerry Robinson, CDT, owner of the Chico, California laboratory, began to think about going solar and taking advantage of the California Emerging Renewables Rebate program, which covered 50% of the cost for a business to convert to solar power.
In 2004, he installed 176 300-watt modules; half are on the roof of the building, and the other half form the roof of a carport that protects the employees' cars from the 115oF summer heat. Since the area typically has sunny weather, the solar panels generate most of the electricity needed to power the laboratory. "Originally, the system more than met our power demand, but faster-than-predicted growth has meant increased power consumption. Now we must purchase some power from a local electric company to meet current production levels," says Robinson.
More recently, Robinson installed a return air system so dust particles from the dust collection system are filtered out and the air is brought back into the lab. "In addition to improving the air quality in the valley, the system saves on cooling and heating expenses by returning cooled/heated air back into the building rather than blowing it out as exhaust," says Robinson.
Chromeworks participates in a city-wide program that ensures all hazardous materials are disposed of appropriately rather than ending up in a local landfill. Whenever possible, recycled shipping materials are used to reduce waste.
Robinson was recently honored as Employer of the Year by The Work Training Center, a local non-profit agency that provides training and job opportunities for developmentally disabled adults. One of the Center's clients is employed by the lab and is responsible for its recycling program; the recycled material is also donated to the Center.