Hooked on solar, but out of roof space?
As solar continues to proliferate the U.S. commercial and industrial market, and companies are realizing attractive returns on their investments, a growing number of organizations are coming back for more.
For multinational big box retailers, and even regional distributors that we serve, expanding their use of solar energy is a fairly simple task; those companies typically maintain large and viable rooftops across their portfolios. Similarly, other corporations can optimize their access to additional renewable energy by utilizing large portions of their campuses with ground mounted systems, supplementing earlier rooftop installations.
Things get tricky, however, for an urban skyscraper owner without sufficient roof or ground square footage, or a convenience store owner with less than optimal roof size. For those customers, expanding their use of renewable energy can be more complicated, but not at all insurmountable.
With an understanding of utility programs, state and federal incentives and the best available technologies, engineering and development can help create opportunities for solar where it was previously thought to be unavailable. One example can be seen in the story behind the recent solar installations of Stewart's Shops, a Saratoga Springs, N.Y.,-based chain of convenience stores.
We developed and installed Stewart's first 600kW system, which tops its 300,000 square-foot Greenfield Center manufacturing and distribution facility, in 2013. As a private company that is one-third employee owned, Stewart's immediately recognized the benefits, both for their business and their community. In fact, they proudly display their daily meter readings on their website.
Just three years later, Stewart's was ready to up their renewable power ante in a big way, but the remainder of their real estate holdings were largely individual convenience stores, stores with small and steep-pitched roofs. The challenge was clear, but not impossible to overcome with the right partner.
Made possible through innovations utilized in our other projects, an offtaker who does not have optimal rooftop or land conditions — such as smaller, high grade angled roofs like convenience store locations — can now benefit from a system installed on an alternative site with excellent solar characteristics. In Stewart's case, a ground mounted solar project (see below video) was installed in a nearby town. The monetary value of the system’s production is being allocated to 17 individual Stewart’s locations, providing a robust offsite solar solution.
Benefiting from that ground-mounted installation in nearby Halfmoon, N.Y., the Stewart's Solar Park system has a total capacity of 1.85 MW, comprising 5,700 individual panels, 3-phase string inverters, and an inverter-level data monitoring system with an integrated commercial weather station. The system is projected to produce about 2,402,119 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. The environmental benefit of the system is equivalent to powering 16 Stewart’s Shops or planting 360 acres of trees. Stewart’s use of solar power will also result in the avoidance of about 3,087,763 pounds of CO2 per year.
By working closely with our team of financial analysts, Stewart's Shops was also able to leverage the benefits of power purchase agreement that allows the company to procure onsite clean electricity at rates significantly below retail electric rates. We also helped Stewart's Shops tap into The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's NY-Sun program, which offers incentives for renewable installations.
The power generated by Stewart's system will provide about 75% of the annual needs of the 17 convenience store locations, continuing to demonstrate the value of solar energy to the company’s team and the community it serves. From its first rooftop installation to its pursuit of a larger, more complicated project, Stewart's story is a shining example of how solar, and its compelling return on investment, is working for all types of businesses.
For more information about offsite solar in your area, or for a real estate portfolio assessment, contact EnterSolar. Based in New York City, EnterSolar is a leading provider of solar photovoltaic systems to the commercial marketplace. Unique in its combination of business operations and solar expertise, the company works with commercial enterprises to deliver optimal energy solutions with compelling, long-term ROI. Expert in the dynamic legislative environment, EnterSolar provides clients with real-time guidance in order to best leverage financial incentives at the regional and state levels. For information or a real estate portfolio assessment, visit www.entersolar.com.