Thursday, November 29, 2007

Producing more than they use

The nation's first commercial building that produces more electricity than it uses sits right here in Our Fair State, up in Hunterdon County. It's the headquarters for Ferreira Construction, and it's covered with 1,276 rooftop solar panels:

While the building falls short of being completely self-sufficient -- lighting and heating itself -- the Hunterdon County highway and bridge construction company's achievement is significant enough to have captured the attention of state energy regulators, conservationists and even Gov. Jon Corzine.
"It's a fabulous project, and it has set a great example of how practical solar power can be," said Ed Seliga, vice president of Advanced Solar Products in Hopewell. Ferreira's owners proudly point out that their new headquarters and large-scale garage at 31 Tannery Road is much more than an environmental exercise.
"This is not some bio-dome out in Arizona with guys running around in lab coats," said Nelson Ferreira, president and CEO of Ferreira Construction. "This is a real office building with real employees doing their jobs the same way they would in any old regular building."

Woo-hoo for Ferreira Construction!

"But," say you doubters (and yes, I can hear your voices in my head), "Doesn't Jersey give insanely generous grants for solar installations? Solar just wouldn't be practical for most businesses in the Northeast!!" Well, my dear doubters, you'd be a little mistaken there. There are grants, yes, but that ain't the whole story:
"Believe it or not, the Northeast is a great place to use solar energy because of its mild temperatures. The solar panels don't work as well in the extreme heat of the desert," said Joe Grabowski, a vice president at the company and the brother of the spokesman. "Even snow is not a big issue; it actually melts off the panels pretty fast."
Considering nearly $1 million in state grants the business has already received, its owners believe the technology will pay for itself in five to seven years. (The technology cost about $2 million, increasing the total cost of the building to $8 million.)
"They (The Ferreira Group) are one of our clean energy leaders for 2007, and they did it by using a combination of products that are already on our shelves," said Mike Winka, whose BPU division provided most of Ferreira's state grants. "It just goes to show how any local company can reduce its operating costs and stay competitive in the global market."
Without the state grants, Winka said, a similar-size project would take 15 to 20 years to pay for itself.

...but it still would pay for itself in the long run. See that, doubters?

Go solar!

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