Having outgrown its current space, SunModo, the Vancouver-based producer of mounting hardware for solar systems, is seeking to relocate its headquarters to a place with room for additional expansion.
To that end, the company has submitted a preliminary application to the city to build 9,000 square feet of space on about 2.4 acres at the Birtcher Business Center on Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard in Orchards. The new facility, to be located at Northeast 147th Avenue and 65th Street, would harbor 3,000 square feet of office space and 6,000 square feet of warehouse space, according to Rick Campfield, CEO of SunModo.
“We’d love to start moving dirt before winter comes,” he said.
The company now operates out of less than roughly 5,000 square feet on East Fifth Street near Pearson Field. More than a year ago, SunModo employed about nine people. The company now employs 12, Campfield said, and there’s little room for additional personnel. “We’re shoehorned,” he said.
By the time the company moves into its new headquarters, which could happen in April or May, it expects to have 15 or 16 people on staff, Campfield said.
Meanwhile, it’s a good time to be in the business of supporting solar power.
“Demand for solar power is expected to grow by an average of 47 gigawatts per year from 2014 through 2020,” according to an analysis issued in January by the research division of Morgan Stanley, the New York-based bank.
“The lion’s share of that — 39 GW a year — is attributable to six markets: the U.S., Europe, China, Japan, India and Brazil. This same group saw demand grow by 36 GW in 2013, while globally, demand grew by 40 GW.”
The solar sector “naturally favors sun-drenched regions with less volatile weather,” according to the Morgan Stanley report, “but over the years, the biggest key to growth has been regulatory and financial incentives, such as favorable tax policies.”
For its part, SunModo makes and sells solar panel racking and mounting systems to residential contractors, commercial installers and other solar providers. The company recently supplied the racking equipment used for Clark Public Utilities’ solar array at Padden Parkway and 117th Avenue in Orchards, just outside the utility’s operations center.
Campfield said the solar industry has only just started to rev up. “There’s a lot of room for growth,” he said. “It’s a very immature market.”
The site at the Birtcher property not only will house the company’s new headquarters, including more space for office and warehouse activities, but it will also provide more room for future expansion. With 2.4 acres, Campfield said, “there’s plenty of space” to add buildings in the years ahead.
Construction of SunModo’s new facility is expected to incorporate elements of the Living Building Challenge, an international certification program that promotes sustainable design and building practices. The program includes rigorous testing of the performance of buildings in certain areas, including water, energy, health and materials.
The Living Building elements of SunModo’s planned new headquarters may include parking for bikes, rooftop solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, open space that goes beyond what’s required by code and “other environmentally friendly development practices,” according to the company’s pre-application filing with the city.