As the Industry Matures, Costs Are Coming Down, Interest Levels Are Going Up and Companies Are Making the Commitment —
By Fiona Soltes —
Compared to new and flashy technologies, solar has enjoyed a fairly lengthy day in the sun. Photovoltaic solar energy has been around for roughly 50 years now. But it has continued to gain efficiencies—and acceptance in terms of ROI.
Consider the recent ProMat 2017 event, which was sprinkled with references to solar; the renewable energy option was mentioned in numerous seminars. And these are no small-scale operations; solar has become a significant part of strategy for companies like UPS, Boeing and REI.
“As interest in solar energy increases in residential, commercial and industrial locations, prices have dropped while output conversation has increased, making it an enticing option,” said Keith Warner, enterprise utilities manager for Boeing. “At Boeing, we look at solar installations on a case-by-case basis to ensure an investment makes environmental and financial sense.”
There is, for example, the company’s largest solar operation in South Carolina: It’s an installation of 10 acres (four hectares) of thin-film solar laminate panels atop the roof of Boeing South Carolina’s 787 Final Assembly building.
Made up of more than 18,000 individual panels, Warner said it was the largest of its type in the Southeast and sixth-largest in the U.S. at the time of installation in 2011. “According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calculations, the installation reduces greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 2,500 metric tons (2,800 tons) annually,” he said. “To put that figure in perspective, that’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of more than 500 passenger cars, or the carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of nearly 6,000 barrels of oil per year.”