Custom processor Microdyne Plastics Inc. is close to accessing power from a massive 651-kilowatt solar panel installation at its Colton, Calif., plant.
The solar photovoltaic system is expected to offset at least 35 percent of the family-owned firm's annual energy expense, said Duane Brown, Microdyne vice president for project management.
Representatives of Microdyne and system owner, SolarMax Technology Inc. in City of Industry, Calif., began discussions in November 2009.
As designed, it is a complex plan and a huge project covering about 90 percent of the plant's rooftop including walkways, said Guillermo Santomauro, SolarMax sales director. A medium-sized business with a solar installation uses an average of 30 kW, he said.
Net-metering laws make the process simple for Microdyne. We will have one monthly bill from SolarMax and [during high intake periods] we will sell power back to the city through a solar electric system rebate program, Brown said.
The system at Microdyne is projected to deliver power in volumes similar to the energy that more than 500 homes might use, said Gerald Katz, senior energy services specialist for the Colton electric utility. We will give them incentives based on the energy actually produced. Every month, we will read the meter. On Aug. 25, the city issued a building permit valuing the improvements at $300,000.
Brown noted: We at Microdyne Plastics will have neither negative nor positive cash flow in regard to the financing on the project.
Publicly traded industry leader China Sunergy Co. Ltd. of Nanjing, China, supplied 2,604 monocrystalline silicon-cell solar panels, each measuring 18 square feet and having the capability to capture 250 watts of solar energy. The panels are flat-positioned 8 inches above the roof line.
SMA Solar Technology AG of Niestetal, Germany, provided a 500-kW inverter control and two Sunnyboy-brand equipment towers. One tower holds seven 7,000-watt inverters, and the other holds five 7,000-watt inverters. Each inverter changes direct current to alternating current and regulates the voltage.
Xtreme Construction Inc. of Riverside, Calif., handled installation and electrical requirements and arranged for a $143,000 roof-coating job.
In October, Berry Roofing Inc. in Riverside pressure-washed, sealant-caulked, primed and applied Hyperseal Inc.'s cool top coating. The result: a reflective white roof.
SolarMax has filed documentation for government incentives including a 30 percent federal grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Colton utility rebate under the 2007 California Million Solar Roof Initiative and the 2005 federal modified accelerated cost recovery system for depreciation over five years. Normally, the depreciation [period] is 25 years for a solar system, Santomauro said.
Under the SolarMax lease-to-own program, Microdyne has a buyout option after six years. The company may keep going and lease for another six years or take advantage of the full savings through ownership, Santomauro said.
Microdyne bought the 88,900-square-foot Colton building in 2003, and initially used it as a warehouse. The company moved its blow molding and injection molding operations to Colton from its former 33,000-square-foot facility in Ontario, Calif., in 2007.
Microdyne reported annual sales of $9.08 million for blow molded products and $3.5 million for injection and insert molded products in Plastics News' most recent rankings. The blow molding segment operates 13 machines ranging from a small Hesta precision unit to Bekum dual-station H-155 machines. The injection molding portion uses 32 machines ranging from a micromachine with a clamping force of 125 pounds per square inch to a 385-ton JSW electric.
Microdyne has 80 employees and uses 20-30 temporary workers as needs dictate.
SolarMax, Microdyne and government officials will acknowledge the system's start of service during Jan. 18 ceremonies and plant tours.
As the Microdyne project is completed, the long-term prospects for encouraging solar technology are in question. Legislators extended the ARRA grants for one year through Dec. 31, 2011, meaning projects of this scale can happen with some businesses revisiting previously considered projects, Santomauro said. The extension resurrects growth for the solar industry. Financing is available only while the subsidies are in place.
An alternative to the grants is a 30 percent federal business energy investment tax credit, but the clear benefit of a grant is very different from a tax credit, he noted.
As more people look at renewables, the available money is being depleted at a fast rate, he said.