Interesting story in the Los Angeles Times today about one of the patriarchs of California’s solar energy industry.

Gary Gerber, a 53-year-old from Berkeley, was there before the word “industry” could be used in the same breath as solar energy.

The Times says:

Though he is by no means the biggest player in the increasingly competitive industry, he is among a handful of believers who came of age in the mid-’70s boom, survived the gloom of the ’80s and ’90s and emerged to thrive in today’s market.

“Gary’s experience mirrors the industry’s experience overall,” said Brian Gitt, executive director of the nonprofit Build It Green, which promotes energy-efficient building in California. “Here’s this pioneer who’s been doing this for 30 years and weathered the hard times. Now, he’s able to take advantage of the insane growth we’re experiencing. It’s equivalent to the beginning of the Internet boom.”

Solar power has had previous brushes with the mass market: In 1891, Clarence M. Kemp designed the first commercial solar water heater.

“The Climax” was the wealthy household’s alternative to heating water on the stove, and six years later, nearly a third of Pasadena homes sported one. But by the 1930s, use of plentiful natural gas had killed the Southland industry.

That’s the same natural gas we were writing about in our energy story today.


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