By David Benda, Record Searchlight, October 2015

REDDING, California – Ted Pella Inc. flipped the switch on its new plant Friday morning, turning on one of the larger solar-power systems in Redding.

The 217-kilowatt solar array features 770 panels and 15 inverters, enough to power 24 houses, Ted Pella President Tom Pella told his employees who gathered in the warehouse of the new facility to watch the “turn-up” celebration and enjoy cake.

Ted Pella Inc. makes and sells instruments that serve laboratories that use the equipment for types of microscopy. The company has 65 employees and sells to 60 countries, both directly and through a network of nearly 40 distributors. International sales constitute about one-third of its business.

The company had planned to build a 30,000-square-foot building to house its manufacturing, warehouse and office space on Mountain Lakes Boulevard next to its existing plant.

But Tom Pella said the process was taking longer than expected. Still he was ready to break ground last October when he was offered the former Knot building on Wedding Way. The New York-based company was winding down its manufacturing operation in Redding and Knot closed the facility March 31.

Pella crunched the numbers and discovered redeveloping an existing building for his needs rather than erecting a new one would save him between $500,000 and $1 million, so he bought the facility on Wedding Way.

The first phase of the move was upgrading the electrical infrastructure, which included hiring Top Hat Energy of Redding to build the new solar system. The next phase will be building a new machine shop, which will be more than twice the size of Ted Pella Inc.’s existing machine shop.

Tom Pella expects the entire business will be in the new building by next summer.

Redding Electricity Utility spokesman Pat Keener said Ted Pella’s solar system is probably the largest for a private employer that is not a big box store in the city.

Redding Municipal Airport has the largest system at 693 kilowatts. Other large ones include Walmart (381 kilowatts), Mountain View Middle School (309 kilowatts), Kohl’s (213 kilowatts) and Redding School of the Arts (116 kilowatts).

Despite its size and power capability, Tom Pella said the system will not cover the company’s maximum anticipated usage.

“So it’s likely that REU will only see electricity coming their way after the business closes each day and on weekends and holidays,” Pella said in an email he sent before Friday’s ceremony. “Our usage is significant even when (the air conditioner) is not needed, but during sunny summer days it will do a great job of covering the A/C and more.”

At Friday’s turn-up were company founders and Pella’s parents, Ted and Christel Pella. Both worked in the industry for a combined 120 years before they retired last year. Ted Pella was working for a Swedish electron microscopy firm when he met Christel, who was an electron microscopy technician.

Ted Pella Inc. was established in Southern California in 1968 before it moved to Redding in 1987.

“To think I had this idea when we were on vacation and I said to Chris (Christel), ‘Why don’t we start a company’ ” Ted Pella said Friday. “Chris said, ‘How do we do that?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll try.’ ”

Ted Pella said a meeting with the Economic Development Corp. of Shasta County at a trade show convinced him and Christel to move to Redding.

“We took advantage of the invitation and then we were on our way,” he said.

Tom Pella said his parents are an impressive pair.

“Chris has the technical side and Ted has the business side. They make a good couple,” he said. “Ted and Chris are a totally unique couple. To dedicate 60 years each — 120 years total — to science, in my opinion there is no other couple with that ever.”