Businesses around the country are investing record amounts in solar, with top 10 corporations such as Amazon, Apple and Ikea making sustainability an integral component of their long-term success. Year over year, there has been a boost of 23% in commercial solar system installations. This is due to a perfect storm of sorts, with lower solar panel pricing, stronger financial incentives and ambitious state-level clean energy programs and mandates.
Solar is a solid investment that can eliminate utility bills, generating hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars in new revenue. It seems to be a no brainer to make the switch. Most of the time it is. But there are a few industries that have even more to gain, financially, competitively and environmentally. The printing industry is one of those industries, with high energy usage, large roof spaces and many times an owner-occupied building.
Steve Pinkin, co-owner and CFO of CCG Marketing Solutions based in West Caldwell, NJ recently installed solar panels on the company’s roof. “We originally looked at solar in 2007, but the timing wasn’t right,” said Pinkin. “A number of factors helped us decide that it was the right time to move forward. It made sense based on our energy bill costs, the federal and state tax incentives, the lower price of solar panels, the stabilization of the value of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (NJ’s clean energy program) and the new laws for system depreciation.”
Show me the Money
The paper printing industry is a notoriously high user of energy, with large equipment running almost round the clock. The financial benefits of a solar installation are almost immediate, with a return on investment of just 3-5 years. In New Jersey, the Solar Renewable Energy Credits allow companies to sell energy back to utilities, plus businesses are eligible for income tax credits, and a bonus on system depreciation. Other states, including New York, offer rebate programs.
If a Tree Falls in the Forest
There are many misconceptions about the paper industry. One of those is that making paper destroys forests. As those in the printing industry can tell you, paper manufacturers and printers actually help support sustainable forest management. But the negative PR still needs to be overcome. With solar panel installation, not only will a company reduce its carbon footprint, but there are huge marketing and competitive advantages. Steve Pinkin said that “many of the RFP’s we receive ask about our sustainability initiatives.” The greening of the company is a newsworthy upgrade that sets a business apart from local and global competitors.
Business as Usual
Larger companies might have a sustainability committee that can handle the plethora of details and outreach to make the switch. CCG’s Pinkin said that “we originally thought of handling this internally through our purchasing department. But it was too much to wade through all of the builders and other vendors in the solar space. We didn’t have the time or the expertise. We went with a commercial solar advisor to handle the RFP process and do due diligence to come up with best solutions. They also helped us find the best ways to finance. We really liked the idea of having someone on our side who was agnostic when it came to vendors. We also appreciated the fact that they didn’t walk away after making introductions. The commercial solar advisor that we used, SolarKal, was by our side throughout the whole process. Costs and laws change, so they kept us abreast of any changes. They also introduced us to other partners, in operations and maintenance, along with SREC brokers.”
Before making a commitment, check with your town regarding the permitting and approval process for installation of solar panels. You might be asked to communicate with neighboring buildings about your intention to install panels. Others require a plan and drawings. You also might need to reach out to your local energy utility for information regarding a new transformer, meters or wires running to the street.
Many companies decide to use this opportunity to change the HVAC unit or install a new roof. A solar advisor can help navigate the solar installation process, helping to avoid delays and anticipate installation issues.
SolarKal, a commercial solar advisor, was named the winner in New York State’s 76 West Clean Energy Competition. They help companies navigate the transition to solar, from the first site visit to the final installation.
Yaniv Kalish is the CEO of SolarKal, New York, N.Y.