Celebrating the Sun
J.E. Berkowitz Inaugurates New Rooftop
by Megan Headley
for Solar Installation
Arthur Berkowitz, president of J.E. Berkowitz LP, has a few pieces
of advice to offer other companies considering solar power based upon
his recent experience:
*Know your consumption of electric.
* Learn about your state’s S-RECs.
*Evaluate your bank. “You have to understand that the banks in United
States are not particularly knowledgeable in solar financing—it’s
a new market to them,” Berkowitz said.
* Consider your location. “We did a study based on a 30-year history
of weather patterns,” Berkowitz said. “It says we can expect about
185 days of sun per year.”
* Consider your facility and roof. “Remember you’re putting a huge
amount of weight on the roof,” Berkowitz said. While JEB’s building,
erected just three years ago, was prepared for the load, he noted,
“A lot of people get into this with older buildings and they spend
as much money reinforcing the roof as the actual installation.”
Berkowitz LP (JEB) hosted a ceremony June 23 at its facility
in Pedricktown, N.J., celebrating the full start-up of its new 7,200-panel
rooftop solar array. The panels cover the expanse of the company’s 180,000-square-foot
plant roof and are expected to produce more than 2 million kW hours of
electricity per year and save approximately 25 percent of the manufacturing
plant’s electric power expense annually.
In an exclusive interview with USGlass, JEB president Arthur Berkowitz
explained that the concept began in 2009. The company took into consideration
the federal government’s American Recovery Act program (ARRA), which provides
a 30-percent grant within 90 days of commissioning the solar installation,
as well as the State of New Jersey solar renewal energy certificates (S-RECs)
program when deciding to undertake the more than $7 million project.
“Given the fact that we’re a huge user of power, the state of New Jersey
has very attractive SRECs and the ARRA had this grant, we began to do
a study—we hired a consultant, began to interview a series of contractors
and looked at two approaches to be in the solar business,” Berkowitz said.
Those approaches include using a power purchase agreement (PPA), or essentially
leasing the system. “It’s attractive if you don’t have the financing to
do it, but ultimately the payback is not there,” Berkowitz said. Instead
JEB purchased their system, an option, he added, that “has a much more
Concept to Completion
After an extensive interview process, the company went with Ray Angelini
Inc. (RAI), a contractor based in New Jersey that has tackled some of
the state’s larger solar installations. “We felt comfortable that he had
the resources and the wherewithal,” Berkowitz said. “Ultimately we buy
the panel and we would buy the inverters, and they’re pretty much a given—it’s
all about the installation. You don’t want to go with someone who’s learning
the process.” Part of the importance JEB placed on having an experienced
installer came down to the fact that RAI is responsible for maintenance
of the panels throughout the life of the building.
RAI elected to use solar panels manufactured by Sharp Corp., which has
manufacturing facilities in Memphis, Tenn.
“We felt that since the funding is coming from the federal government
and the state of New Jersey, if this panel is efficient and if the cost
was competitive, then [a U.S.-made panel] is the route we wanted to go,”
Once permitting and engineering studies had been completed, site work
began on January 22, 2010. JEB operated as usual during the installation.
“There were a couple weekends where we had to shut off all our power while
they were doing hook-ups, but there was zero impact on our operations,”
Berkowitz said. Despite delays that included record-breaking snowstorms
and hurdles thrown out by the electric company, the company completed
the installation on April 16.
That last hurdle, Berkowitz explained, was an additional study requested
by the electric company as the installation neared completion. “This is
such a large install that the power company was concerned about the impact
of this amount of power being sent back to the grid,” Berkowitz said.
“They were used to people with small homes or stores that had 20 to 30
panels on them. This is a 1.7 mW system.”
Although the study delayed the full energizing of the system by several
weeks, it ultimately showed that the inverters and system would have no
detrimental effect on the local utilities. On May 20 all eight inverters
were fully energized.
The installation of solar panels is part of an ongoing environmental program
for the company. Now that the solar array is on, the company is considering
its next steps in green manufacturing. “We’ve looked at co-generation,
but did not go forward at this point,” Berkowitz says. “We could do so
somewhere in the future.”
George Smith, who acted as project manager on the solar installation and
leads other green initiatives, explained, “We put in skylights in the
plant to get natural daylight during our main shift. We also put in a
daylight harvesting system, which operates the lighting—T5 fixtures that
are in themselves energy-saving—out in the plant. Daylight harvesting
takes the light from the skylights and the side windows into consideration
into how many tubes within the light fixtures really need to be on.”
The company also has added a reverse osmosis system for efficient water
treatment in the facility, as well as actions such as recycling in the
office and using green cleaning materials.
Is more solar in the future for JEB? Berkowitz says the company may look
to further power its facility by the sun—but won’t be commercializing
its own systems anytime soon.
“We’ve looked at building integrated photovoltaics, and it’s got some
years to go,” he says. “There’s just no payback on it, it’s wildly expensive
and it’s limited to the amount of surface area where you can use it. We
don’t see it as a business opportunity. This was really an asset for our
facility to lower energy costs.”
Megan Headley is the editor of USGlass.
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.