FREMONT -- The expansion of clean-energy companies like Solaria "is not just California's present, but this is the start of an extraordinary future," Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the Earth Day dedication of a new manufacturing plant.

Solaria designs, makes and markets silicon photovoltaic modules and systems. Previously based elsewhere in Fremont, the company cut the ribbon Friday on a new plant and solar panel array on Paseo Padre Parkway. The 110-kilowatt array provides most of the plant's power by day, CEO Dan Shugar said, and the company expects to at least double its local workforce -- now about 100 -- in the next 12 to 18 months.

Newsom, among the Democrats who sought statewide office last year in large part on a platform of job creation through clean, alternative energy development, reiterated that "we're talking about bringing manufacturing back to California ... and our capacity here in California to compete, to create jobs."

He said his recent trip to Texas with several state lawmakers underscored to him that California for almost a decade has lacked a cohesive job-creation plan, something new Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to address.

"We've got to get back in the game" by tapping "the dramatic opportunity that exists in changing the way we produce and use energy," Newsom said.


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Shugar said the law signed recently by Brown that raises the state's goal for renewable energy as a portion of overall energy production by 2020 from 20 percent to 33 percent is a "transformational vision ... because it provides the underpinnings for the industry." He said recent conventional energy disasters -- the Massey coal mine explosion, Deepwater Horizon oil spill and San Bruno gas line blast in 2010, and the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan -- underscore the public's desire for safe, clean, cheap alternative energy.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, was in the audience Friday, and said the expansion of companies like Solaria is the result of California having striven to be at the forefront of clean energy since the 1970s. Seeking jobs created at a facility like this "gives a real sense of confidence" in the city's, region's and state's future, he added.

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