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Going solar

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Mark Johnson is the owner of Golden Sierra Power, a solar energy business.
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Mark Johnson wants to use the power of the sun in the land of the sun to advance the business he opened in March.

Johnson moved Golden Sierra Power from Placerville to Lake Tahoe in the hopes of expanding into market segments beyond the wineries he’s contracted with on the West Slope. The 4-year-old company – which now operates on a $750,000 budget – designs and builds commercial solar systems that may range from $10,000 for a 45-watt system to $200,000 for a 30,000-watt program. He said he’s installed 11 systems – one from Nine Gables Winery in Amador County and another at Fitzpatrick Winery outside Placerville.

Johnson, a diverse individual with a colorful professional background, said he got into the business because of the California solar initiative being drafted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration. The initiative will provide $2.8 billion in incentives to businesses and residents that go solar.



Johnson provided extensive comments to the California Public Utilities Commission about the initiative.

The former teacher, financial consultant and military officer hired four core experts to grow the business and he hasn’t looked back.



“I didn’t get into this to save the world,” he said. “All the things I’ve done have made me able to create opportunities that put me in a position. My goal is to become a power company.”

When Johnson raced cars professionally, he said he lost sponsors after the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of the uncertain business climate. That event prompted a discovery and career change.

Today, the challenge with the solar business has revolved around the cost of equipment, which appears to be rising. But California is not the only state to cultivate the alternative source of energy. New York, New Jersey and Texas have been coming up with solar initiatives of their own.

Johnson, who operates his business from his Upper Truckee home, can be reached at (530) 577-5142.


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