Approximately 47,600 square feet of solar panels now cover nearly half of the total roof surface of the Harleysville complex. Each of the 1,860 ET Solar 275 watt panels weighs 50 pounds and measures 77 by 39 inches. Together, the solar panels are projected to produce approximately 623,000 kilowatt hours of energy each year. Tecta America was contracted by Harleysville to install the 511.5 kwp system.
A significant portion of the project’s $2.8 million cost is being offset by financial assistance from both the federal and state governments. “There’s a 30 percent federal tax credit—amounting to $840,000—coupled with as much as a $90,000 benefit due to bonus depreciation that will help defray about one-third of our investment,” says Arthur Chandler, senior vice president and chief financial officer. “On top of those federal incentives, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Financing Authority provided us with a $355,000 solar energy program grant.”
Andrew Shields, assistant secretary and director of facilities services, expects long-term energy cost savings for the company to result from the solar project. “Because the system will generate about 15 percent of our annual energy needs at a fixed cost, we expect both cost savings and protection from rate increases on some of our power costs,” he noted. “In fact, we expect to re-coup our overall investment within the first seven years of operation.”
Coupled with the installation of the new solar energy generation system, Shields noted that other major environmental projects completed at the Harleysville headquarters have resulted in total energy cost reductions of 25 percent since 2008. Those projects include an ice storage and air conditioning system installed in 2009, as well as various upgrades to lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls.
Combined, the initiatives reduce annual total building load from 6 million kilowatt hours to 4.5 million kilowatt hours, Shields said.