A large beer distribution company in Yaphank has been generating more than 90 percent of its power from a giant solar array on its rooftop — the largest such installation on Long Island and one that defies a recent trend of placing such commercial installations on cleared land.
Distributor Clare Rose’s 1.5-megawatt system, which has been in operation since April, will be formally recognized at a launch event in Yaphank on Wednesday. It comes a week after Suffolk County announced plans to clear 44 wooded acres as part of a contested 13.5-megawatt project, which includes undeveloped county land in Yaphank.
Peyton Boswell, managing director for EnterSolar, the Manhattan-based company that developed the Clare Rose project, said the system of more than 5,000 solar panels is expected to pay for itself in three to five years, and last more than 30 years. It will generate 1.9 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year for Clare Rose, all of it for the facility’s own use in refrigeration, recycling, lighting and office operations. A megawatt of solar powers more than 160 homes.
After the payback period, Clare Rose will pay less than a penny a kilowatt-hour for electricity from the array — the cost of monitoring and maintenance. By comparison, energy from PSEG Long Island, which operates the grid for LIPA, costs more than 20 cents a kilowatt.
“Going solar made sense not only from an environmental standpoint, but also from a financial one,” said Clare Rose chief executive Sean Rose. “We will almost entirely eliminate our dependence on the grid.”
The array is set on the more than 230,000 square feet of rooftop at the 269,000-square-foot facility, which is already configured with energy-saving green-energy designs. Boswell said PSEG was helpful in engineering the system’s complex grid interconnection.
Boswell said the system is economical because of reduced costs for solar panels and a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of the system. That credit will fall to 10 percent for commercial applications in 2017, and expire for residential installations at that time.
“The cost of equipment has come down to point where it’s viable” even without a rebate, Boswell said. The Clare Rose installation was “an ideal scenario,” because of the size of the roof and the building’s advanced technology. The physical work on the building was done by New Generation Energy of Hoboken, N.J., formerly of Long Island, Boswell said. PSEG didn’t immediately comment.
Clare Rose decided to use the clean energy it generated for internal operations rather than pipe all of it into the grid as LIPA has proposed through another program called a feed-in tariff, under which developers receive a set price for solar power.
Suffolk County is working with San Mateo, Calif.-based SolarCity on a series of solar installations that will also be used by Suffolk facilities, cutting energy costs by about $1 million a year. Critics, including Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine, have criticized Suffolk’s plan to clear 44 acres of open land for the arrays. A commercial solar code developed by Suffolk’s Planning Commission this year recommends placing arrays on rooftops and industrial parcels rather than green fields. Suffolk has said the array will conform to the code and other requirements, and that it’s too early to criticize a design that hasn’t been finalized.
The Clare Rose facility has a special meter known as a net meter, which allows it to send energy not needed at the distribution plant back to the grid. When the sun isn’t shining, Clare Rose then draws energy from the LIPA grid, using its banked net-meter energy to offset the cost. LIPA in December is expected to double the amount of net-metered energy it can purchase from customers like Clare Rose, if planned tariff changes are approved by its board. It’s currently 3 percent of LIPA grid’s 2005 peak load of 5,116 megawatts but would shift to 6 percent, in line with other utilities in the state.