Forecast: more sun

How business owners can save money while reducing their carbon consumption

David Hutter//June 3, 2019//

Forecast: more sun

How business owners can save money while reducing their carbon consumption

David Hutter//June 3, 2019//

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A new state law aimed at promoting solar energy is allowing some business owners to protect the environment while improving their bottom lines. Two cases in point: Cary Compounds and S&A Molders.

Charles Cary, owner and president, S&A Molders. – AARON HOUSTON

Cary Compounds is a PVC compound manufacturer owned by Kenneth Cary. S&A Molders is a structural foam and injection molder owned by Kenneth’s son, Charles Cary. S&A provides parts for the automotive and medical industries, among others. S&A Molders employs about 60 people; Cary Compounds has 49 workers.

The two companies have together added 1,566 monocrystalline high-efficiency solar panels to the roof of their 140,000-square foot manufacturing plant in Manalapan. They began using the solar panels in February 2019 to provide 639,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which is about 40 percent of the building’s annual electricity usage.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed Assembly Bill 3723 in May 2018 to establish and modify clean energy and energy efficiency programs, providing incentives for conversion to solar. The law accelerates and increases the state’s commitment to solar energy generation, known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard. Murphy wants New Jersey to generate 21 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, 35 percent by 2025, and 50 percent by 2030, making New Jersey’s commitment to renewable energy one of the highest in the nation.

Beyond these measures, Charles Cary is taking advantage of curtailment, a program offered through a public electrical company. The company asks consumers to curtail voluntarily their use of electricity during peak usage during hot days in the summer between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“We go on curtailment in the summer because they do not have it to give,” Charles Cary said of the utilities. “They make enough energy so homes can run their air conditioning. If you opt in, there is an incentive at the end of the year. They reimburse you for your time for shutting down your air conditioner.”

Cary Compounds has been taking advantage of the curtailment program for seven years; S&A has been in curtailment for two years, Charles Cary said.

“We are looking at a payback of three to four years,” Charles Cary said. “The solar panels have a life expectancy that diminishes by about one percent each year for 25 years.”

Looking at the ‘big picture’

Kenneth Cary said he thinks other businesses should take advantage of the new law.

1,566 monocrystalline high‑efficiency solar panels were added to the roof of S&A Molders’ 140,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Manalapan. – AARON HOUSTON

“My son and I have done a few things that help the environment and it makes good financial sense,” he said. “It is already benefitting us because our power bill has gone down. We get quite a reduction in our power bill. If it works as well as we think it is going to work, we would think anyone would use it.”

Charles Cary spent $250,000 to buy a new roof and spent $1.1 million to install the solar panels. He plans to invest any energy savings back into his company. “It will help us overall in the big picture,” he noted.

“When it is sunny, we are making money,” Charles Cary said. “When it rains  we feel pain. And snow is a no-go. Snow is brutal because you get a thin film over the solar panels and it shuts them down.”

Nonetheless, he is enthusiastic about the potential for solar energy. “You would be absolutely out of your mind not to take advantage of solar panels on your roof,” he said.

Charles Cary hopes to build a carport where his parking lot is currently and then add solar panels to the carport.

Alex Rivera, senior vice president of project development & originations for Branchburg-based Vanguard Energy Partners, installed the solar panels for the Cary companies.

Vanguard got into the design, construction, and maintenance of solar energy facilities because of company executives’ belief in creating value by addressing the issues of greenhouse gas emissions, Rivera said.

“Governor Murphy and our state’s commitment through Bill 3723 further fosters investment confidence to the solar energy renewable industry, enabling our clients of different demographic sectors to fully benefit from this robust clean energy generation technology while realizing energy savings,” Rivera said. “The legislation therefore increases our business volume while directly improving the benefits to our communities.”

Companies save money by investing in solar panels over a period of time.

“When solar panels are installed on a specific site, the solar electricity generated is immediately consumed by the site versus purchasing from the utility,” Rivera said. “Hence, such avoidance of purchasing electricity from the utility yields the savings. Any solar electricity generated beyond the site’s needs at the time of generation, known as surplus energy, is exported back to the utility, creating a credit to the site’s utility invoice as a result of New Jersey’s law of Net Metering.”

Rivera thinks the corresponding energy savings will be material as a result of this scheduled increase in solar generation.

An additional benefit of the new law is the Community Solar Program, Rivera said. The program enables the installation of offsite solar generation facilities. “Therefore, citizens who are challenged to the implementation of solar energy savings due to limited financial resources or poor technical site characteristics prevent the installation of solar panels on their own sites can now become recipients of solar savings from solar facilities placed in remote locations from their own,” Rivera explained.