Posted: 07/18/2021 14:54:50 PM
The state’s largest rooftop solar panel sits atop a huge warehouse in Pembroke, saving the Associated Grocers of New England a lot of energy and ultimately a lot of money.
The 1.3 megawatt project, involving 3,400 solar panels, will cost the company $ 2.4 million to install, of which about $ 600,000 will be clawed back in federal tax credits. Over the course of the year, it is expected to provide around 20% of the building’s electricity, creating a payback period of around a decade.
“We will have electricity savings in 9.5 years,” said Mike Violette, CEO of the cooperative that serves independent grocery stores in New England and upstate New York.
Larger networks exist in the state and much larger networks are in the works, but they are grounded.
The warehouse, which covers nearly 500,000 square feet or the size of eight football fields, is located between Route 3 and the Soucook River. It owns and distributes groceries for member stores, which are typically smaller stores than large supermarket chains. Besides about 10,000 square feet of office space, it is devoted roughly half to dry goods and half to refrigerated products, with the network not extending beyond the refrigerated side.
“We keep it on the dry side because there are no refrigeration pipes up there,” Violette said. “That would make things too complicated.”
Work began last month and the system is expected to be operational by the end of the summer.
Violette said the project is the result of an analysis by the group’s green outreach committee, looking for ways to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
The grid is installed by Brentwood-based ReVision Energy and is expected to generate more than 1.45 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy each year, offsetting 2.2 million pounds of CO2 emissions per year. The company said this “is the equivalent of planting 17,000 tree seedlings or taking 224 cars off the road.”
One of the advantages of rooftop solar installations over ground-based solar installations is that they require much less wiring to connect them to users and take advantage of existing but unused real estate. The disadvantages include more difficult maintenance, including snow management, and the possible complication of interventions in the event of a building fire, which may require firefighters’ access through the roof.
(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or [email protected] or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)