Printer Goes Solar, Retains Historic Look
BURLINGTON, NJ—A commercial printer on the outskirts of Philadelphia is learning that it can look historically fashionable while maintaining its environmentally-conscious sensibilities.
Approximately a year ago, Richard and Vivian Lewis—owners of Burlington Press, a commercial printing and marketing services firm—started the process of installing solar arrays on the company’s building. The goal was to have clean, renewable solar power provide all of the printer’s electric needs. While the original configuration met that goal, as the project evolved, the design needed to be changed.
The first concern was to make the solar arrays invisible from the street so as to not mar the look of the historic district where the building is located. Working with Burlington City’s Historic Commission, the owners were able to come up with an alternative that satisfied this and the stringent requirements of the Burlington City Historic District.
The second challenge posed were the trees on neighboring properties that would shade the panels and make them inefficient. The redesigned project allowed for 27 panels on the building's roof. In order to provide additional power, a car port was built in the parking lot with an additional 30 high-capacity solar panels on its roof. Although the redesign did not meet the goal of 100 percent solar power, the business expects to generate 80 to 90 percent of its power from the solar arrays without the historic building being marred by obviously visible solar panels.
Although saving energy and reducing the demand on natural resources was always critical to the project, the money generated by SREC (solar renewable energy certificates) credits gave an incentive of a much faster payback and the ability to generate additional income for Burlington Press. SREC credits are sold to local power companies that do not meet the state’s requirements for generating power via renewable solar power. Every Megawatt generated by privately built solar projects creates a credit that is sold on an auction basis to the utilities.
The SREC credits fell from $500 per megawatt hour to less that $150 during the planning process. The company’s management gave some thought to abandoning the project because the payback period of the project went from 2.5 years to over 7 years, but decided to keep the project on track because the primary purpose is to make the business as green as possible.