PSC member touts alternative fuels
Tim Echols, a member of Georgia’s Public Service Commission (PSC), lauded several Dalton companies Monday for their push to use more solar power.
The PSC regulates state utilities, and Echols told the Kiwanis Club of Dalton that the state could face an electricity shortage over the next few years because utilities will be closing down some coal-fired plants because they will be too expensive to run under new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules.
“The EPA is coming down on utilities with an iron fist,” he said.
That means that companies and homeowners who can meet some of their own electricity needs by installing solar power can help ease that shortage.
Echols lauded U.S. Floors for its new Dalton plant. He said the solar array on that building is the largest rooftop solar power system in the state. He also lauded the solar facility on Dalton Utilities’ land application system site.
Echols said the growing cost of energy is a major concern for the state’s manufacturers. The PSC earlier this month urged the General Assembly to remove the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing to keep the state competitive with neighboring states that don’t charge such a tax.
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DALTON, Ga. — Gray skies and the occasional rain shower may have put a damper on production Friday, but the dreary weather didn’t stop solar energy proponents from predicting a sunny future for Dalton.
“There is no other place in Georgia where you can take a 10-mile tour and see this kind of installation of solar energy,” Bill Silva, the president of United Renewable Energy, told about 50 people gathered in southern Whitfield County.
United Renewable Energy, which has installed many of Dalton’s solar energy sites, hosted a tour for Dalton leaders, business owners from across the state and officials involved in promoting renewable energy in Georgia.
The tour included a rooftop solar array at USFloors, a newly installed array on top of a landfill at Textile Rubber and Chemical Co., Dalton Utilities’ solar system and a solar tracking panel at IVC.
Georgia ranks 38th in the nation in solar development.
Piet Dossche, CEO of USFloors, told the group that for him solar isn’t just about the environment — it makes good business sense for his company.
The company has saved 40 percent on utility costs since installing the panels, he said.
“I’m not a tree-hugger; I’m a business person,” he said, amidst laughs from his listeners. “And the numbers do make sense.”
Dossche said he also prides himself in being a leader, creating a more diverse economy in Dalton’s carpet-heavy manufacturing world and helping the county become more energy independent.
Chip Howalt, CEO of Textile Rubber and Chemical Co., echoed Dossche’s endorsement. Howalt’s company has installed a solar array on top of an industrial landfill by using large cement blocks as ballast to anchor the solar panels. “It’s a feel-good thing, but it will yield immediate results to the bottom line,” he said.
Howalt said the company’s rule of thumb is that an investment must pay for itself in three years, a criteria the solar array will meet.
Dalton Mayor David Pennington said he is not surprised to see Dalton embracing solar energy. It is, after all, a city that developed cutting-edge carpet manufacturing, he said.
“Dalton is the innovative capital of Georgia — we have diverse thinkers and diverse innovators,” he said. “And if a company wants to begin making solar panels in Dalton, we will be happy to have them come.”
The state’s solar industry is growing steadily, but slowly, as the national industry explodes.
The sun preceded humans by four billion years, give or take an eon, and in another billion years it will consume us, if we don’t kill ourselves first or we somehow avoid being dispatched by plague, meteors, aliens or some other misfortune.
Another billion years. By then, if not a little sooner, Georgia surely will have figured out how to better leverage the golden opportunity that rises in the East every day. Or so it is hoped by this state’s growing legion of solar energy advocates.
“It could take many, many years, but we will get there,” says Lee Peterson, senior manager for Reznick Group’s national tax practice in its Atlanta office, where he has served as an advisor in renewable energy projects across the U.S. valued at more than $2.4 billion – but only a tiny portion in Georgia.
“Georgia is shackled to the 20th century,” Peterson says. “If all I did was look at Georgia, I’d think we were doing well. But I work all over the country, and I’m not kidding when I say we’re dealing with $500-million solar projects that have no chance of coming here because of systemic problems that keep Georgia from participating in the 21st-century economy, which has renewable energy as a major component.
“It’s disgusting, considering our potential, how much opportunity is lost, how much capital investment is passed up.”
According to the Georgia Solar Energy Association (GSEA), more than $5 billion in the U.S. has been invested in solar manufacturing since 2008, but Georgia received less than one percent of that action. Industry revenue in the U.S. was $6 billion last year, up from $3.7 billion in 2009, says the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA); the industry attracted more venture capital than any other industry in the U.S.
“It’s the fastest-growing industry in the U.S. I take that as a positive sign for Georgia, going forward,” says William Silva, president and CEO of Alpharetta-based United Renewable Energy. “We currently have 25 employees, and we’re looking at doubling our staff by the end of the year. The industry is booming.”
Our very own Shana Haygood is featured in Solar Energy Industries Association spot: Solar Works for America.
Shana Haygood is an attorney and as COO of United Renewable Energy she has a complicated job: reviewing documents, sorting through the different state and federal renewable energy incentives, parsing the nuances. But what she likes best about work needs no legalese to explain.
“The greatest opportunity in my position is employing people. Our company has created 25 new jobs in the past year and I am proud to have been a part of that. We are in a business with a conscience that challenges us every day.”
Shana was recruited to United Renewable Energy straight from law school and uses her legal training daily. “Contract review and document development are some of the most important skills that I bring to my position. The ability to manage multiple projects and give attention to the smallest detail are important when working with solar projects.”
On the other side of the detail work is the variety. “No two projects are alike. The target is always moving, the solution constantly different. Each jurisdiction (where a project is located) presents new challenges and exciting opportunity. ”
There is variety, too, in the background of employees who came to solar in mid-career. “Many of our employees have come from other industries and bring a variety of skills. Many of our installers have advanced degrees and are able to bring a truly professional approach to everything they do,” she said.
Part of Shana’s job is speaking to outside groups and that energizes her. “I have presented to conventions, seminars, schools and trade groups. So many people are interested in learning about renewable energy for many different reasons. I can blend my interest in education with the professional requirements of this job. I can’t imagine many other jobs that would permit me to share ideas, grow concepts and to keep everyone interested.”
Like other firms in the industry, United is growing. “Our company has specialized in industrial and utility installations and has sought out the most reliable technologies, while keeping informed about new developments. We have completed systems as small as 1 kilowatt in the years before solar found its footing. Now we have completed the first phase of a 1 megawatt utility project [with Georgia Power]. ”
There is no slowdown in sight. “Our company has accelerated at an exponential rate and intends to keep creating jobs. Our work environment is fast- paced, with high expectations and focused on the goal.”
“IVC US believes in being good corporate stewards of our community and environment, and we understand the importance of minimizing our ecological footprint,” said Xavier Steyaert, CEO of IVC US. “Utilizing solar energy is one of several green initiatives we have integrated into our new facility.
Motorists on the Dalton Bypass can easily spot the ground-mounted solar tracker that is designed to follow the sun as it moves across the horizon. Throughout the day, the tracker continually orients itself with the sun to maximize its energy intake. Additionally, a large solar panel array is located on IVC’s roof. The panels work by collecting radiation from the sun and converting it into usable energy for commercial use with a grid tied inverter.
Together, the 101.66kW system collects enough energy to power 10 American homes. The solar panels will eventually power IVC’s fleet of electric lift trucks. The lift trucks will be operated by rechargeable batteries, thus completely eliminating emissions. In the meantime, the energy collected is used to supply power to the lights in the manufacturing facility. IVC partnered with United Renewable Energy LLC, a commercial solar installer based out of Alpharetta, Georgia, to engineer the project.
IVC US completed its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Dalton in Dec. 2010. “This marks an exciting milestone in our growth in North America, as it will enable us to offer customers ‘Made in US’ products,” said Steyaert. The facility is situated on a 44 acre site and spans 520,000 sq. ft. In addition to featuring state-of-the-art machinery, the plant houses the longest vinyl line in the world. The $75 million project has generated more than 150 long-term jobs in Dalton.
IVC was founded in 1997 in Avelgem, Belgium and has evolved into a world-wide market leader in vinyl floorcoverings in the past decade. For more information about IVC US visit www.ivcgroup.us
March 31, 2011, Dalton, Georgia –
Dalton, Georgia – IVC US has commissioned a solar energy system at its new U.S. Headquarters in Dalton, Georgia. The rooftop solar array is complimented by a 15′ X 15′ solar tracker on the Dalton Bypass that follows the sun as it moves across the horizon.
The 101.66kW system collects radiation from the sun with Schüco panels, and converts the power for commercial energy use with a grid interactive inverter. The project was engineered, procured, and constructed by United Renewable Energy LLC, a commercial solar installer based out of Alpharetta, Georgia.
Last year IVC constructed its new US headquarters in Dalton with state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution facilities. The 520,000 square foot building more than doubles the size of the previous location, and will further propel IVC US to the forefront of the domestic sheet vinyl industry. The $75 million capital investment has created more than 150 long-term jobs for Dalton, a community that has been plagued by unemployment caused by the economic recession. “IVC US believes in being good corporate stewards of our community and environment, and we understand the importance of minimizing our ecological footprint,” said Xavier Steyaert, CEO of IVC US. “Utilizing solar energy is one of several green initiatives we have integrated into our new facility.”
United Renewable Energy designed and constructed the solar power system using 476 Schüco Solar Panels, converting the solar energy for use in the plant. The energy collected from the panels is enough to power 10 average American homes, and offset approximately 2,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere during the 25 year lifetime of the system. The panels will supply enough energy to cover most of the corporate office use. “IVC US continues to raise the bar for responsibility in manufacturing, while investing in its community and business,” said William Silva, President of United Renewable Energy. “It was a pleasure to work with a growing manufacturing company who focuses on sustainability and quality in their flooring products.”
United Renewable Energy Developer and EPC for Georgia Power and Dalton Utilities Deal.
ATLANTA – Georgia Power recently acquired a series of solar projects of up to 1 megawatt (MW) in Murray County, Ga., co-developed by United Renewable Energy LLC and Mack Creek Energy LLC. Georgia Power will sell the output from the facility to Dalton Utilities. The plant will be constructed on Looper Bridge Road in Dalton by United Renewable Energy and will be owned and operated by Georgia Power. Under the terms of the deal, Georgia Power will lease property for the solar facility from Dalton Utilities, which will purchase 100 percent of the plant’s capacity and energy through a 25-year power purchase agreement.
“Dalton Utilities is excited to be part of this project,” said Don Cope, Dalton Utilities President and CEO. “This is a major initiative in expanding green energy in the State of Georgia. Upon the completion of this project, Dalton Utilities and its corporate customers will be able to advertise the fact that we are utilizing ‘green’ energy which has become increasingly important in today’s market. This is one of several sustainable/renewable/green initiatives Dalton Utilities is in the process of developing.”
Energy produced from the solar facility will be sold on the wholesale market therefore the cost of the facility will not become part of Georgia Power’s retail rate base. All of the renewable energy credits from the facility will be conveyed to Dalton Utilities. The first phase of the facility is expected to begin commercial operations in spring 2011.
This contract marks the first time Georgia Power has acquired a solar energy production facility to serve the wholesale market,” said Jeff Burleson, Georgia Power’s director of Resource Policy and Planning. “Not only will it increase the amount of solar resources in the state, but it also strengthens our partnership with Dalton Utilities, a fellow co-owner of the two new nuclear units under construction at Plant Vogtle.”
The facility will be developed in phases with each phase comprising approximately 350 kW. Georgia Power has the option to construct two additional 350 kW phases for a total of 1 MW by January 2014. One megawatt is enough energy to supply a Super Target or approximately 400 Georgia residences.
“As a solar EPC company headquartered in Georgia,” said William Silva, President of United Renewable Energy, “we applaud Dalton Utilities’ vision, and Georgia Power’s support of solar energy in the state. Over 100 solar jobs were created in the state of Georgia last year.”
Rome, Georgia – Marglen Industries has recently commissioned a 95.2 kilowatt solar energy photovoltaic (PV) energy system on their rooftop in Rome, Ga. The system was installed by Alpharetta, Georgia based United Renewable Energy, LLC, and is the largest in the Southeast to use Solyndra’s unique cylindrical thin-film solar energy system.
The system was installed on the rooftop of Marglen Industries plastic bottle recycling plant in Rome, Georgia. The plant produces a post consumer recycled PET resin that is used in the manufacturing of sustainable food-grade packaging. The plant also produces a polyester fiber that is used in the manufacturing of sustainable flooring and other textile products. As part of it’s overall sustainable mission, Marglen has emerged as a renewable energy visionary with their latest solar installation, but has been a leader in sustainability for decades.
We at Marglen Industries are committed to bringing our values and principles of sustainability to the forefront of our business. This solar array stands as our responsibility for leadership in the industry, and our goal to bring value to our community and customers.” said Marglen’s CEO John Burnes.