When the sun shines, the folks at Peninsula Packaging Co. are doubly glad.
The Exeter, Calif., clamshell producer operates a solar power array that saves it money and helps guard against power brownouts. Peninsula has been running the array - which converts sunlight directly to electricity - since November and ``it has been performing well,'' said Peninsula co-owner and General Manager Ed Byrne.
The network of 1,100 solar cells can produce up to 2,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, estimates Mike Nelson, director of Washington State University's Northwest Solar Center and a consultant for the Peninsula project. The cells are mounted on steel poles and turn to follow the sun, supplementing Peninsula's power supply.
Byrne said the $8.3 million solar array is one of the biggest privately financed setups in the United States.
The local utility, Southern California Edison, provides rebates for power produced by the array. The rebates represent about 40 percent of the installation cost and further financial help comes through accelerated depreciation programs for state and federal taxes.
Byrne said in a telephone interview that the solar idea arose four years ago when he and partners were setting up Peninsula. At first it was seen as a way of minimizing power interruptions. As the idea grew, power savings became evident, since the company expected to pay 10-18 cents per kilowatt hour when sourcing from the local grid.
Other benefits go beyond Peninsula's own needs.
``From the standpoint of conservation, this array will save 5 million gallons of oil, the equivalent of removing 2,900 cars from our roads,'' Nelson stated in a news release.
Peninsula requires electricity to power its PET extrusion and thermoforming machinery.
In the summer, air conditioning is needed to counter temperatures that regularly top 100° F in California's Central Valley.
When the sun shines hotly, the system is able to take some strain off the local grid while providing even more electricity for Peninsula.
``The [electricity] price won't change from year to year,'' according to Byrne.
``Being able to guarantee that over the long haul can be a competitive advantage,'' he added.
``We're doing the utilities a big favor by reducing demand during peak hours,'' Nelson said.