An $80,000 investment in renewable energy will help benefit Earth's atmosphere and Plastic Ingenuity Inc.'s bottom line, company officials said.
In a Jan. 9 news release, officials at the Cross Plains, Wis., company said a rooftop system of 50 200-watt crystalline silicone photovoltaic solar panels, finished in September, should pay for itself in five years.
Founded in 1972, the $70 million company provides custom thermoforming and sheet extrusion for the food, medical, cosmetic, electronics, and retail industries.
``We've always been ultrasensitive to being environmentally friendly,'' marketing director Rob Helmke said in a Jan. 11 telephone interview. ``This builds on that tradition.''
In the release, Plastic Ingenuity President Tom Kuehn called the installation of solar panels a ``first step,'' and said the company plans to do more to decrease its dependence on the local power grid.
``Our goal is to produce 10 percent of our electricity from renewable sources in five years,'' he said
Company spokesman Chris McGuigan said in a Jan.14 e-mail that planning for the solar array began in January 2007. Plastic Ingenuity worked with Focus on Energy, a Wisconsin energy conservation and management program, to design and implement the system. Focus on Energy gave the company a grant for about 25 percent of the startup costs.
Under a state mandate to add renewable energy to its portfolio, Madison Gas and Electric Co., the local utility, buys all of the electricity generated by Plastic Ingenuity for 25 cents per kilowatt-hour. The company then pays the utility 4 or 8 cents per hour, based on the time of day.
Helmke said the solar panels will produce about 13,262 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Producing that amount of energy using fossil fuels would dump 29,176 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, he said.
More and more plastics producers are joining the trend toward green energy, with solar panels and wind turbines being the most cost-effective solutions.
Since November 2006, Exeter, Calif.-based Peninsula Packaging Co. has had one of the largest private solar arrays in North America. Its 8.3 million network of 1,100 cells can make a whopping 2 megawatt-hours - 2 million kwh - per year.
Ed Byrne, the $62 million clamshell thermoformer's co-owner and general manager, said in a Jan.11 telephone interview that the solar field takes strain off the local power grid during peak heat season while saving Peninsula through rebates from its electric utility.
``Our average peak power rate during the course of the year is about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour,'' he said. That compares with 10-18 cents per kwh the company expected to pay Southern California Edison for sourcing off the local grid.
But the tax benefits have not been so apparent, despite being touted by the seller of the system, Byrne said.
``It turned out to be disingenuous information,'' he said. Byrne did not elaborate.
The federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit on an accelerated depreciation schedule of five years for installing a solar system. States offer differing incentives to businesses to install solar panels.
The federal production tax credit provides a benefit of 1.9 cents per kwh for the first 10 years of a wind-based renewable energy operation. State incentives vary. But generally they are not as generous as those for solar power, because the lack of wind limits the number of places where wind turbines can successfully operate.
Wind is not an issue for Cascade Engineering Inc., one of the industry pioneers in alternative energy. Located 20 miles inland from Lake Michigan in Grand Rapids, Mich., the estimated $260 million molder is a founding member of the Green Power Partnership, an Environmental Protection Agency program where companies agree to buy 4 percent of their power from renewable resources such as solar and wind.
In September 2007, Cascade launched a subsidiary, ChooseRenewables LLC, dedicated to helping customers reduce their carbon footprints. One of ChooseRenewables' first projects involves testing new rooftop wind turbines, including the Swift, a Scottish machine with blades molded by Cascade, which also is the North American distributor.
Three rooftop turbines at a Cascade injection molding plant in Grand Rapids provide about 1 percent of the building's electricity -but there's also a visual aspect, said Jessica Lehti, ChooseRenewables sales and marketing manager, in a Jan. 15 telephone interview.
``We really wanted to have a location where employees could see easily what wind turbines do,'' she said.
She said the turbines generate about 6,000 kwh of power - reducing the plant's carbon emissions by about 9,800 pounds per year.
``That's the equivalent of taking one car off the road for one year,'' Lehti said.