Advantage Laser Installs 21.8KW Solyndra Solar Array

Monday, January 11th, 2010 | Green Power

Next week we begin installation of rooftop solar array on our MICR toner cartridge manufacturing facility in Atlanta, Georgia. The solar project has been broken into three arrays. We will start by installing Array #1 – a 21.8KW array that will produce 29,654 KW hours per year. This will only provide about 23% of the power we currently use. Once Arrays #2 and #3 are built the complete system will provide 70% of our power usage. Our goal will be to become power neutral meaning we produce 100% of the power we need. So after all 3 arrays are installed, we will have to decrease our power usage by 30% via increased efficiency e.g. LED lighting project (more on that later).
It Makes Environmental and Business Sense
The environmental benefits of solar power are obvious, the challenge is to operate as green as possible and still remain a viable business. I looked at solar a couple of years ago, but it was difficult to make the numbers work. The federal government was giving a 30% tax credit and the state (Georgia) had no incentive whatsoever. Several months ago Mark Bell with Empower contacted us about solar. He got us up to date on solar power legislation and incentives. Solar (green) power was included in the economic stimulus and recovery act of 2009. Now the federal government will pay the 30% as a grant up front and the state of Georgia will give an additional 35% tax credit towards a commercial solar installation. This made all the difference. The federal grant, means we don’t have to borrow as much money. The state also has a grant, but it is limited to $2.5 million and applications flooded the GEFA office. The rebate program was closed after just one day. So we’re going the tax credit route, which creates a challenge in itself. Sometimes I think the tax aspects of a solar array are much more complex than the technical ones. After calls to two accountants, the state and Empower, we determined the array would pay for itself in about five and a half years. Not bad, after that we’ll have an array with a 25 year life expectancy with free green power.
Solar Panels Made in the USA

Much of the solar PV (PhotoVoltaic) is dominated by China these days. We prefer to buy products made here in the USA when we can. Lucky for us, we have a white roof. Why should this matter? This allowed us to install a new innovative solar panel from Solyndra (made in Silicon Valley CA). Traditional PV uses a solid panel that is angled to the sun to maximize efficiency. But angled panel makes a great sail and therefore it requires a physical attachment and penetration through the roofing system or a heavy ballasting system.

Solyndra has a revolutionary solar panel that uses a series of tubes with space between them so that the wind passes right through them. The tubes on the Solyndra panel absorb the sunlight that is reflected off the white roof as well. The result is an array that can be installed in a fraction of the time and maximizes efficiency per square foot. The Solyndra panel costs about twice as much as a traditional panel, but the savings in installation time and mounting brackets make them come out about even. We are one of the first Solyndra customers in the Southeast for a technology that may revolutionize solar installations on many flat-roofed buildings.
Below is our rooftop layout of all 3 arrays. Array #1, on the far right, will be the first. Installation of all three was too much of a financial burden. Our goal is to install an array each year for the next 3 years.
Once Arrays 2 & 3 are complete, our system power will be a total of 65.9 KW producing 85,865 KW hours a year.

Selling Green Power vs. Decreasing Peak Load
As we harvest energy from the sun there are several ways to take advantage of it. One is to use the power ourselves with net metering. With net metering our meter “run backwards” when we’re producing more energy than we’re using. Otherwise it just slows down our meter. An advantage of net metering is we can use the solar array to decrease our peak load. Commercial customers are charged per KWH, but GA Power has incentives to business to smooth out their power usages by charging more, the higher your peak load. Each month a commercial business peak load rate is determined by the highest half hour power usage in the previous 11 months. The business about calculating peak load appears to be intentionally designed to be confusing. Empower has been working with us to see if they can decrease our peak load, and thus lower our overall price we pay per KWH.
Another option we have is to sell our “green” power to GA power through their Green energy buyback program. In this program, we take 100% of our green power and sell it to GA Power for $0.18 per KWH (about 4-5 cents per KWH than we pay for solar power). Right now GA Power’s green energy buyback is closed to new energy providers. The program is capped 1.5 Megawatts per year, which isn’t that much.
Increasing Efficiency
We are investigating a LED lighting project that would replace all of our existing florescent lights with new LED fixtures. Initial estimates indicate we would save about 15KW with the LED project. Empower is also consulting with us on the LED lighting project as well.
We are also replacing the largest two of our four HVAC units with new Trane High Efficiency units. We’ve also added rooftop motion detection and surveillance cameras. This will double to protect our solar array as well as our HVAC units from copper theft.

Installing a solar array has some exciting possibilities, but before you take the plunge, do the research. There is a lot to learn, especially about the tax code and what you can deduct and what you can’t. But in the end, if you have a long term perspective, investing in a solar array makes sense. Imagine the energy savings and decrease in air pollution that would be possible if every business with a roof filled them with solar panels.
I’ll be posting pictures of the array installation as I can. -Marvin Masson

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7 Comments to Advantage Laser Installs 21.8KW Solyndra Solar Array

January 14, 2010

Great writeup Marvin. Look forward to your followup posts on this project.

Target Lifts
January 19, 2010

Very impressive. I learned alot.

Superior Automotive
January 20, 2010

great job guys,looking forward to following the project as it proceeds,with brian c. onboard-you will succeed!!jeff//superior automotive

Issac Maez
March 8, 2010

Solar Power Financing: The Power Purchase Agreement or PPA is a contract between the service provider and the customer. Each power purchase agreement is unique, because different clients are going to have different needs. We want to understand what your needs are and write the power purchase agreement in such a way that it fits the goals of your business. Nationwide Solar Power will design, install and maintain the system, and the client buys the electricity that the system provides. Nationwide Solar Power is responsible for not only maintenance and installation, but insurance and replacement parts as well. The energy provided will be sold at a locked in rate that usually lasts for 20 to 25 years, depending on how long the power purchase agreement is for. When this amount of time expires, the client has the option of purchasing the equipment or signing another Power Purchase Agreement. A third option is to do neither, in which case the equipment will be removed at no cost to the client. So basically, a power purchase agreement puts into words the service and equipment you will be receiving, and how much the service or equipment will cost. This protects the client, installer, and service provider from any undue misunderstandings. The solar investment tax credit was extended for eight years under the Emergency Economic Stabilization act of 2008. This tax credit covers 30 percent of the cost of installation for commercial and residential locations. Organizations that are tax exempt can take the 30 percent as a grant for projects started in 2009 or 2010, and completed before 2016. Organizations that are tax exempt include schools, local government facilities, and non-profit organizations. With electricity costs expected to rise as more fossil fuel restrictions are put into place, many clients are enjoying the benefits of a power purchase agreement that allows them to purchase electricity for the long term future at costs well below those of a utility company. The capital that is saved from the lower electric costs can be used in other business ventures, such as expansion. It is also beneficial to the client to not have to worry about such things as bad weather or natural disasters damaging the equipment. With a power purchase agreement, the service provider handles the insurance on the equipment, so if a disaster takes place the equipment will be repaired and or replaced at no cost to the client. Being a service provider to a large number of clients allows the service provider to buy insurance at a much lower cost. If the equipment were to stop working properly, or not work at all, the service provider will show up at your property and asses the situation. Once the problem is found, all equipment that needs to be repaired or replaced will be done at no charge to the property owner.

Elmer Reid
March 25, 2010

Hi there, I just finished reading some of your posts and found you to be quite informative. Thanks.

Shaunda Bater
March 30, 2010

I’m really glad I found this post. I’ve been checking for info on solar energy for ages.Looking forward to reading through more posts about energy.

Tyson F. Gautreaux
April 7, 2010

Welcome To Nationwide Solar Power

Nationwide Solar Power designs, installs and maintains commercial solar and utility scale solar power systems. Solar electricity provides property owners with the opportunity to generate some or all of their annual energy needs. We can enable businesses, schools, governments, and utilities to benefit from predictable, renewable energy. Nationwide Solar Power PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) provides financing. We assume all the risks and responsibilities for your solar electric system, while the property owner pays for electricity at long term predictable rates. This is a hedge against the ever rising cost of electricity.

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