News of the Porter Ranch gas leak was fuel for Andrew Yakub. Not that the Santa Monica resident had to be convinced about the need for renewable energy.

The local entrepreneur saw the recent leak, which is being handled by Southern California Gas Co. officials, as yet another warning alarm.

“What they were doing was supposed to be a clean form of energy, but look at the disaster it caused,” he said. “It’s not clean. It’s poisonous. If it leaks, you have to evacuate the whole area. There are a lot of fallacies being toted around, and it’s harming society.”

Yakub’s enthusiasm for alternative energy was obvious in a recent phone interview with the Daily Press, and his industry peers seem to be taking notice. The founder of Santa Monica-based Rayton Solar was recently named to the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in the energy category.

Yakub stood out in a competition that featured more than 15,000 total nominations and a cohort of judges that included Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

“It’s been a huge honor,” Yakub said. “It’s amazing to me that Forbes has a whole category for energy. It’s something I’m very passionate about, and it’s great there’s support for an industry that’s rapidly changing. I’m proud and happy to be one of the leaders in that field.”

The honor came with an invitation to attend an April summit in Tel Aviv, and Yakub said he’s excited for the trip because he’s heard about the Israeli city’s thriving tech scene. But he sounded even more jazzed about the prospect of increasing the role of solar power in the country’s energy equation. He said his company can make solar panels that are 60-percent less expensive and 25-percent more efficient than the industry standard.

Yakub first became interested in renewal energy as a physics student at UC Santa Barbara, where he learned about the planet’s finite supply of fossil fuels.

He has since gained experience as an engineer at a UCLA physics lab and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where he worked on the robotic Mars probe.

Then, after expanding his skills as a finance manager with a solar company in Los Angeles, Yakub decided to launch his own company with help from UCLA physics professors James Rosenzweig and Mark Goorsky.

Yakub said Rayton Solar has created technology to deal with extremely thin silicon, which is made using a particle accelerator.

“There are other people trying to go thinner,” he said, “but they can’t hit 4.7 microns because you need technology that we’ve developed in handling silicon that is that thin.”

Rayton Solar currently has four full-time employees, and Yakub said the highly technical nature of his company’s model requires skills that he wouldn’t easily find overseas. It’s why he thinks he’ll be able to keep jobs in the U.S.

Yakub chose to locate Rayton Solar in Santa Monica because of its proximity to UCLA, supportive Silicon Beach startup community and access to investor networks. He said the company’s first $1.8 million in seed funding came from people he met through Fundable, a business crowdfunding website, and another round of fundraising will begin this spring.

Yakub remains motivated to make alternative energy, well, more mainstream.

“A majority of people can get at least 70 percent of their energy from solar,” he said. “And as battery prices drop, we expect that will affect storage enormously. It gives people the ability to have a choice. Right now, your utility company charges whatever they want. People want the option to be self-sustaining.”

jeff@www.smdp.com