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  • Writer's pictureTiana Starks

How the sun can work for manufacturers with solar panels

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

The forecast of possible 100-degree days in mid-July in the Chicago area might have been more newsworthy but for the fact that successive days of more than 90-degree temperatures is plenty hot enough already. At some point it doesn’t matter much anymore.

Of course, working in the heat is much different from simply being in the heat. Anyone who works outside or in a shop with air-conditioning can tell you that. But that’s why it’s called work, and for most manufacturers, a hot day on the job is nothing out of the ordinary.

Shapiro & Duncan, a mechanical contractor, doesn’t necessarily think like that anymore. The sun is working for them now.

With a new roof needed on its 51,000-square-foot fabrication facility in Landover, Md., the company committed to having solar roof panels installed at the same time.

“It made sense to put the solar panels up there with the tax incentives, and electricity is not getting any cheaper,” said Mark Drury, Shapiro & Duncan’s vice president, business development. “So the motivation was to do the right thing for the environment, save some money, and earn some good PR in the long run.”

The mechanical contractor had some knowledge of solar panel installations, having been involved in some customers’ projects in the past, Drury said. It also had confidence in its roofing contractor and Aurora Energy, the commercial solar project developer.

In addition, the building’s flat roof was perfect for the solar farm. The panels are able to soak in all of the sun’s energy for a maximum amount of time, which is not the case for panels attached to smaller, angled roofs. Also, the fabrication facility had a southern exposure, which further maximized hours of sunlight.

By the end of 2018, the company had installed 925 solar modules with a 302-kW production capacity. Drury said the goal is to generate approximately 105 percent of its power, with the extra being fed back into the grid, which can result in revenue from solar renewable energy certificates (SREC) purchased on the utility market and monthly credits directly from the electric utility.

Checking an app on his mobile phone, Drury was able to see that Shapiro & Duncan’s solar panels had produced more than 30 mW of electricity in April and consumption was only 25 mW. It had exported 5 mW into the SREC market.

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