Sitting Atop the Scrap Heap of Success- SRS Wins Spirit of America: “Green Company of the Year” Award
Solarsilicon Recycling Services is the ultimate green company, tapping into the ultimate niche And it’s proving to be a
lucrative gig: Just this year, the Ventura County firm purchased its own building in Ventura for $6.3 million and kicked off a hiring spree to bolster its ranks to 100 employees by year-end. What’s behind that growth? Look around Ihe Solarsilicon facility and the answer will look like this chunks of shimmering, blue-grey rock-like material, lying around in molten-shaped blobs or in carved-off pieces.
Solarsilicon takes discarded and damaged silicon —remnants from the production of solar cells, waste material from computer chips, old solar cells and so forth —and cleans it up to produce new silicon at a high enough grade for the solar industry to reuse. “We’re the ultimate green company.” CEO Rob Bushman told the Business Times in a March interview. “We’re recycling for the solar industry.” Bushman started the firm in 1996 after owning and operating a scrap metal business where he realized that silicon was simply being tossed into landfills “I got my start because Siemens solar was just throwing this stuff away,” he said at the company’s old 20,000 square-foot facility in Camarillo. Solarsilicon has since outgrown that facility and is making the move over to its new 90.000-square foot headquarters at 2433 Eastman Ave. in Ventura . It will invest between $3 million and $5 million in the property, which it will use as an incubator for refining its silicon cleaning process, its executives said.
The firm hopes to be able to produce silicon soon at a high enough grade for the semiconductor industry to use. The
company had 50 employees by 2006, when Bushman sold it Ersol, which was later acquired by tech conglomerate Bosch. In
March 2010. Bushman and company President Eric Baldwin bought the firm back. They’ve grown it from 43 to about 70 employees since, and hope to have 100 by the end of this year. It also plans to up its capacity five times over the remainder of the year.
Mike Tingus. president of Lee & Associates-L A North/Ventura, represented Solarsilicon in its purchase of the Ventura facility Tingus told the Business Times earlier this year that Bushman — a longtime friend and his first client — could have moved the company outof-state to be closer to clients, but decided to stay in theTri-Counties instead. California, perhaps surprisingly, is not a solar energy hub. Solarsilicon has no clients in the stale, Bushman said, and most of its scrap metal comes from outside the state or even overseas, but Bushman made a lifestyle choice tn stay in theregion. “You’ve got to pay that heavy weather tax if you want to stay here,” he laughed. “An absentee ownership doesn’t work.” Some of Solarsilicon’s employees have been with the firm for 18 years. Bushman said, and he didn’t want to pick up and pull the company out from under them. Interestingly, the majority of the firm’s workers are women, who are better able to work on the detail-oriented tasks required to clean silicon, he said. “Companies like Solarsilicon are why I really enjoy being an industrial broker,” Tingus said. “You go into any industrial park in Ventura County and there’s somebody creating some new widget or developing a new manufacturing process. There are guys like this everywhere that have their niche. ”
Over the years, Solarsilicon has seen the solar industry take off, in the U.S. and abroad Countries such as Germany are light years ahead of the United States in terms of solar-energy development, Bushman said. “While the US solar industry has grown substantially over the past few years, both Europe and Asia have dramatically outpaced that growth rate. The solar industry remains in its infancy and should experience enormous growth over the next 10 to 20 years,” he said in a recent email “SRS will have expanded international operations in key markets around the world over the next few years.” An additional facility in
the US “makes good sense,”he said. “We are being driven by our customers to support growing efforts overseas, primarily in Asia “But he also sees that as an opportunity for growth, as solar remains a part of the US.’ continued push to find better renewable energy sources. “We see a verybright future or we wouldn’t have invested in this facility,” he said.