Small Businesses Add Solar to Save Money

by | Aug 31, 2010

Small businesses across the nation are installing solar power systems as a way to offset higher electricity costs and make a little profit on excess energy produced.

As an example, L. Liberato Steel Fabricating in Pennsylvania has installed a 602-panel, 141-kilowatt rooftop solar photovoltaic system that will help the steel fabricator cut its electric bills and generate excess electricity for an additional profit, reports The Mercury Business.

The family-owned business claims to be the first steel fabricator to go solar in Chester County. Kathi Cozzone, Chester County Commissioner, said in the article that the installation will help the country meet its goal to decrease its carbon footprint by 9.7 percent.

The company decided to go with a solar power system as way to offset higher electricity costs due to electricity rate-cap deregulation set for January 2011, which is expected to increase the company’s costs by 30 percent. The system also offered additional income opportunities to sell the excess solar power.

M.T. Ruhl Electrical Contracting, installer of the project, told the newspaper the solar-panel installation cost about $665,000, with about $400,000 of the total cost covered by state and federal grants.

The steel fabricating company expects to see a 3 1/2-year return on its investment, taking into account state and federal grants and the sale of certificates of generation.

In California, Big O Tires shop has joined a small group of East Bay businesses that have taken advantage of the California Solar Initiative program, which provides rebates for photovoltaic system installations, reports The Oakland Tribune.

Since the program began in 2007, 155 businesses in Alameda and Contra Costa counties have applied for state funds to help offset the cost of solar-panel systems, according to the article.

Another driving factor behind the pickup in demand is the drop in the price of solar panels, reports The Oakland Tribune. Panel pricing has dropped from $4.20 a watt in 2007 to about $1.90 per watt.

The 542 solar panels atop of Big O Tires’ Dublin Boulevard buildings generate 50 kilowatts of power, and year round will generate enough power to supply 85 percent of the tire store’s energy needs.

Since March, the store’s utility bill dropped from an average of $1,500 a month to $29, the monthly connection fee paid to PG&E to be connected to its power grid. The business could receive a check from the utility at the end of the first year in the program.

The system cost about $300,00 but a combination of rebates and federal tax credits dropped the cost to $120,000. The business expects a payback in energy savings in about seven years.

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