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Calibration Firm Takes Calculated Net Zero Risk

It’s been a year since Terry Norris started on an ambitious alternative energy project at his Palmdale business, Precision Labs. After doing some checking around with cities and business groups, Norris is convinced Precision, a manufacturing equipment calibration firm, is the only net zero energy business in the Antelope Valley. Solar panels, LED lights, earlier work shifts, timers on lights and refrigerators and additional insulation are just some of the changes Norris implemented that contribute to the company using less energy than it produces. Norris estimated that he has spent about $85,000 so far on his reduction efforts, including 18 kilowatts of solar panels, a reflective coating on the roof that cuts down on the heat generated by 50 degrees, LEDs in the company’s 12 labs and hallways, and a demand controller that indicates how much power is being used throughout the building. Now he’s getting a return on that investment. For June, Norris got back about $30 for putting excess power onto the grid. “Normally the month of June is when we pay $2,000 to $3,000 in electric costs,” he noted. Still, in recognition for the steps the company has taken, Norris and his wife Silvia Norris received a Small Business of the Year Award from CoolCalifornia.org, a consortium of state agencies, universities and non-profits that provides information and tools for residents and businesses on reducing energy costs. Judy Nottoli, an engineer in the office of the ombudsman at the state’s Air Resources Board, said that what makes Norris stand out is not only the changes he has made at Precision but his education efforts in speaking to business and community groups about energy reduction. “He is telling them there is a lot you can do that does not cost a lot of money,” Nottoli said. The LEDs, for instance, emit two times the brightness of a fluorescent bulb but use only one-third the power. Because they generate less heat, the company doesn’t need to crank up the air conditioning. “Every little thing that we do increases the benefits of other things,” said Norris, who drives an electric car and has solar panels at his Palmdale home. Norris and his wife started Precision 20 years ago after the pair met while working at a calibration lab in the San Fernando Valley. Terry Norris picked up his technical expertise in calibrating equipment while serving in the Marines. Calibration involves adjusting equipment and instruments such as electrocardiography machines and sound and light meters to a known standard. Precision does work for companies across the U.S. in the aerospace, agriculture and medical device manufacturing sectors. One recent customer was the Palmdale assembly plant of Kinkisharyo USA Inc., a Japanese light rail car manufacturer. Precision calibrated the equipment used to weigh the cars. “We really manage to be a leader in our industry,” said Silvia Norris, the company’s chief financial officer. Commercial Navigation Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Navigation Systems produces a positioning system for spaceships and satellites that it now plans to sell for agricultural drones and mining machines. An inertial measurement unit is a device with sensors that reports acceleration and rotation so that on-board computers can track the position of an aircraft or spacecraft. The system helps stabilize cameras and other devices for image collection. Northrop Grumman’s LN-200C, however, can be used on cars, trucks, farming machines, mining vehicles and ships in addition to small, private aircraft. The unit stabilizes sensors used for mapping fields in precision agriculture and guiding unmanned vehicles in autonomous mining. Northrop has a policy to not disclose the price of its products. The LN-200C is a modified version of the inertial measurement unit long available to defense customers. A commercial version (that’s what the C stands for) expands the potential market for Northrop Grumman. Naveen Joshi, manager of the gyro product lines for Navigation Systems, said it is easier to obtain an export license for a commercial product. “This makes us more attractive to both international customers and those domestic customers that sell their products or provide their services internationally,” Joshi said. Navigation Systems, based in Woodland Hills, does most of its manufacturing in Utah. The west San Fernando Valley facility is for research and development and low-volume manufacturing. The modified version of the military grade device has limited range. And while the environment for a camera doing reconnaissance in a warzone is tougher than that of a camera on a Cessna taking pictures of crops, they both do the same type of job, Joshi said. “Given their relaxed operational environments, our new commercial customers will benefit from a robust, high quality (inertial measurement unit) that performs very well for their applications,” Joshi added. Staff Reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or mmadler@sfvbj.com

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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