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GSK Claims Largest Rooftop Solar Array in North America

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare has started to install what it claims as North America’s largest rooftop solar array at its Northeast Regional Distribution Center (RDC) in York, Pa. The 3-megawatt (MW) installation consists of nearly 11,000 solar panels.

Generating approximately 3.4 million kilowatt hours of energy per year, the solar panels will supply enough electricity to meet the annual energy needs of the nearly 500,000-square-foot building. It will be the first time a GSK facility anywhere in the world will be completely reliant on solar energy.

This will enable the facility to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3,000 tons annually.

GSK received government funding and solar incentives to help finance the project including a $1 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Financing Authority and $4.1 million in federal tax credits. GSK will also use energy savings and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC) to offset costs.

American Capital Energy, the company responsible for the project, plans to install about 500 panels per day.

As part of the company’s plan to install solar at each of its North American distribution facilities over the next two years, GSK plans to install solar panels at its Fresno, Calif., RDC by spring of 2011.Together, the York and Fresno facilities will generate 60 percent of the total GSK Consumer Healthcare North America RDC electricity supply from solar energy.

Four other solar panel projects were recently completed at GSK facilities in Upper Providence and Collegeville, Pa.; North Carolina, Belgium and Singapore.

GSK recently ranked fifth in Newsweek’s “2010 Green Ranking.”

In other solar news, Santa Clara University (SCU) activated a 967.68 kilowatt solar energy system. Complementing SCU’s existing 50-kW solar array, the system is projected to generate an estimated 1.42 million kW hours of clean energy in its first full year of operation.

Thanks to a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Perpetual Energy Systems, SCU didn’t have to outlay any capital for the project. Under the PPA, SCU will purchase solar energy produced by each installation at a predetermined, fixed rate. The system is owned, operated and will be maintained by Perpetual.

Perpetual combined conventional financing with federal energy tax incentives to fund the project. As owner, Perpetual retains the renewable energy certificates and environmental attributes generated by the system’s actual kilowatt hour output.

The systems are located on the rooftops of the University’s Leavey Event Center, the Pat Malley Recreation Center, and the parking garage. The system will eliminate approximately 23,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) throughout its operating lifespan

According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), SCU’s system is currently the 13th largest solar installation among colleges and universities in the U.S.

Similarly, Santa Monica College completed a solar and energy-efficiency project, which is expected to save the college more than $14 million over the life of the project. The project includes a 408-kilowatt solar system, which provides electricity through solar panels located on the top level of two parking structures. It’s generating power for the two garages and a significant portion of the Business Education Building at Santa Monica College.

The $3.6 million project generates approximately 50,660 kilowatt hours each month and is saving the college about $8,100 per month.

Chevron Energy Solutions, which designed and installed the system, also will operate and maintain the solar system. The college has also improved its energy efficiency through a campus-wide lighting retrofit, variable speed drives, new heating hot water boilers, fire alarm system as well as emergency circuit upgrades that were also implemented by Chevron Energy Solutions.

Through the energy efficiency improvements and use of solar, Santa Monica College is reducing its purchase of utility power, which is expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 1,500 metric tons. The project is paid for exclusively by energy savings on utility bills.

On the east coast, Mercury Solar Systems has installed solar systems totaling 1.2 MW on two public schools in Newark, New Jersey. The project, which consists of rooftop and carport systems, is part of PSE&G’s Solar 4 All program and a five school solar pilot program initiated by the Newark Public Schools Facilities Management Office.

A 646 kW rooftop system consisting of 2,310 panels was installed at Barringer High School and rooftop and carport systems totaling 519 kW were also installed at Park Elementary School.

In addition to schools, businesses, financial institutions and health-care facilities also are adding solar power systems.

As an example, Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo) has completed the largest solar energy facility in New England, according to the company. The 1.8-MW project, at the William Stanley Business Park, in Pittsfield, Mass., is the first in WMECo’s 6 MW solar program. The solar projects will contribute to meeting Governor Deval Patrick’s goal to have 250 MW of solar power installed by 2017.

Situated on eight acres of land owned by WMECo and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA), the facility consists of approximately 6,500 solar panels, producing 1.8 MW of electricity.

In Virginia, Dinwiddie Nursing & Rehabilitation Center of Petersburg recently became the first health-care facility in the state of Virginia to install a solar power system. Managed by Commonwealth Care of Roanoke, the nursing facility took advantage of SolTherm’s NoCapEx program to install a solar hot water system with no upfront investment.

Dinwiddie expects to immediately reduce its hot water energy costs by 20 percent, adding up to $149,000 over the life of the 15-year agreement. SolTherm makes this program work by monetizing tax credits generated by the solar energy systems and packaging them for tax credit investors.

The National Bank of Arizona is activating its $2-million, 402-kW solar photovoltaic array at its Southern Arizona headquarters, reports Arizona Daily Star. The 24,000-square-foot solar project will be installed on the roof of the parking garage adjacent to the bank headquarters.

The array will produce about 580,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity for the bank and its tenants in two office buildings, supplying 25 percent of the buildings’ needs, according to the article.

The bank expects to recoup the cost of the installation in six years through lower electric bills, taking into consideration both renewable-energy-credit payments from Tucson Electric Power Co. and a 30 percent federal tax credit.

The bank installed a 222-kilowatt solar system on its Phoenix headquarters in May 2009 and has financed more than $100 million in solar projects, including the Soaring Heights residential community at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, reports Arizona Daily Star

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