Solar energy from CEG shines from the rooftops
By: Alicia Biggs
The 2,400 solar panels lining the roof of the Stewart’s Shops Corp. manufacturing and distribution center in Greenfield are saving the company $40,000 a year on its energy bills.
“The rooftop project has been particularly effective,” said Stewart’s spokeswoman Maria D’Amelia of the panels, which were installed in 2013. “Our plant’s peak demand is when solar output is at its greatest, resolving power distribution problems of the grid.”
Non-residential solar projects like the one at Stewart’s are turning the Capital Region into one of the “brightest spots in New York’s clean energy industry,” said James Schlett, Center for Economic Growth director of research and communications.
CEG early this summer will launch its SolarGen Campaign to encourage more Capital Region manufacturers to install solar. Schlett said the campaign will seek proposals from developers to streamline the process and reduce costs to install solar systems at manufacturing sites in an eight-county region.
“One of CEG’s missions as a regional technology center under the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership program is to (help) the Capital Region’s manufacturers operate more efficiently, whether it’s through lean training or supply chain development,” CEG President Andrew Kennedy said. “The CEG SolarGen program will enable companies to see actual cost savings, (and) become energy efficient and less reliant on traditional power consumption.”
The eight-county region leads upstate not only in the number of completed non-residential solar systems but also in the amount of power they can generate, Schlett said.
As of Jan. 31, the Capital Region’s completed nonresidential solar generation systems had total installed capacity of 63.3 megawatts. Residential systems added another 56.2 megawatts.
From 2003 to this year, nearly 800 nonresidential solar projects have been completed in the Capital Region, according to CEG. The region’s leading position in non-residential solar power generation capacity was driven largely by a wave of commercial/industrial system completions in 2016, when 14 came on line. Just three were completed in 2014, and none were completed in 2015.
Stewart’s was one of those completions last year, partnering again with EnterSolar, the company that had developed solar panels in Greenfield, for a solar farm built on open land on Cary Road in Halfmoon, D’Amelia said.
“We had already established a good relationship with EnterSolar from our rooftop system when they approached us about the next project,” D’Amelia said. “In this case, the use of an alternative site made sense. We had the right location and the right number of shops that could benefit from solar production.”
D’Amelia said the individual shops are too small to have their own system work efficiently. The company uses net meter credits generated by the system to offset electric bills at 17 locations. Stewart’s continues to seek potential sites for remote net metering projects as long as a reasonable return is determined — both financially and environmentally.
“Sustainable options can be considered when it makes sense, taking into account both financial and environmental aspects,” D’Amelia said. “As with any decision, you have to evaluate the long-term impact of the project. It is also important to partner with someone who knows the ins and outs from a technology, regulatory, and incentive standpoint.”
Les Lak, vice president of operations and systems at Blasch Precision Ceramics in Albany, said Blasch installed about 35,000 square feet of solar panels on its roof three years ago. The company saves between $15,000 and $18,000 in energy costs per year.
“We installed the solar panels to provide environmentally friendly power production and a slight cost savings on power,” Lak said. “It is estimated that our 350-kilowatt field over the next 20 years will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 364,580 pounds, sulfur dioxide emissions by 1,174 pounds, nitrous oxide by 410 pounds, which is the equivalent of saving 32.4 acres of trees.”
The cost of commercial/industrial solar generating systems completed under direct purchase agreements last year was $2.58 per watt, according to the CEG. Stewart’s said its payback period is about 5.6 years.
The SolarGen campaign is funded through support from New York State’s Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
CEG is requesting proposals from qualified solar developers to provide design, engineering, installation, and financial services for solar photovoltaic systems of 200-kilowatt or larger for manufacturing facilities at competitive pricing. More details can be found at: https://ceg.org/grow-here/business-growth-solutions/energy-sustainability/ceg-solargen/