Envision Solar Reveals Move to Become Public Company

San Diego architect (and Xconomist) Bob Noble says that Envision Solar, the solar development firm that he founded in 2005, will soon begin trading shares over the counter after completing a reverse merger with a dormant public company. He announced the move at a reception held last night for about 75 friends and colleagues, which he characterized as a “celebration for what we’ve done after a tremendous amount of work over many months.”

Noble tells me that Envision Solar needed capital to expand its capabilities in developing solar-integrated infrastructure and building systems. As a public company, he says Envision Solar can get more exposure and benefit from broader investor interest.

“We have created a platform for growth,” Noble tells me. “I’ve identified key opportunities and business in distributed solar power generation worldwide.”

Envision Solar ParkingNoble’s vision for what he calls “distributed solar power generation” represents a scenario that many utilities have been unwilling to contemplate, at least until recent years. Utilities have long preferred a centralized power generation scheme that puts an industrial-scale power plant at the hub of electricity distribution. In contrast, distributed generation is more of a “small is beautiful” concept in which electricity is generated on a small scale by power producers scattered throughout a power grid.

As I’ve reported, Envision Solar got its start in 2004 when Kyocera, the Japanese electronics manufacturing giant, approached Noble about designing a “solar carport” for its North American headquarters in San Diego. The proprietary design that ensued looked more like a solar “tree” than a carport, with a single central column supporting a large flat rooftop built with Kyocera-manufactured photovoltaic solar panels. Each solar tree provides enough shade for about eight parking spaces, and the 25-array project became known as the Kyocera Solar Grove—a 235-kilowatt system covering a 186-car parking lot.

The project was both a big success and a revelation for Noble, who sees enormous environmental benefits in converting parking lots from urban heat islands into shaded sources of renewable energy. It also represents the core of what he calls Envision Solar’s “Park Solar” business—commercial-scale solar arrays for parking lots, the top decks of parking structures, shopping centers, amphitheaters, and college and university campuses.

In what he called a “non-financial” presentation of the company’s business, Noble displayed several solar grove projects that Envision Solar has developed, including a project at Dell computer’s headquarters in Round Rock, TX. He also showed proposed designs for the Yahoo corporate campus, Dallas Cowboys stadium parking lot, Jacksonville, FL, International Airport, and a memorial park in Gandhinagar, a planned city in India.

Noble also has plans to develop business around inexpensive solar-powered building modules, ranging from small “LifePod” buildings that could be used as a home office or guest room, to pergola-like solar cabanas, and solar “LifePort” garages and barns. In addition, multiple modules can be used to create solar-powered schools, clinics, and other solar-powered villages.

“The key component is that distributed-generation solar opportunities are extensive, and we have the ability to capture that market,” Noble says.

This is a business we’ll continue to watch.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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