A local marina and fire station have joined area companies and service providers in the move to save their operations money as well as have less impact on the environment.
Barrett Boat Works in Spring Lake is now up and running with a 480-solar panel installation completed during the coldest days of December on its newest storage building.
The Spring Lake Township Fire Department has already saved $3,500 on electrical costs in its first year of operation at its new station on the corner of M-104 and Fruitport Road.
Township Fire Chief Brian Sipe said the 149-panel system — located over the department’s apparatus (truck) bay — is producing the majority of the electricity needed in the 14,000-square-foot building.
“Right now our Consumers Energy bills are running about $25 a month,” Sipe said.
Chart House Energy installed the $150,000 system. The company continues to own and maintain the system, reimbursed by lease payments from the Township.
Right now the savings are rolled back into the lease payment, Sipe said. The calculated payoff of the system is in about six years, at which time the Township will decide whether or not to take ownership of the system.
Regardless, “that’s when the percent savings to the Township will really increase,” said Sipe.
“It’s a long-term investment,” Sipe added. “The panels have a 25-year warranty, but will last much longer”
Chuck Harloff, Barrett Boat Works general manager, said the marina expects a five-year payoff in their $350,000 system.
“That’s not bad at all,” he said.
And the $350,000 is not as bad as it sounds. The business receives a 30 percent tax credit and depreciation deductions, which will cut the cost almost in half over time.
The solar project was not part of the original redevelopment plan under construction at the marina over the past year.
But owner Chris Lisowicz was in discussion with a Muskegon company, and by the time the storage building was completed in June 2017, Lisowicz decided to add the solar panels to the project.
“It’s part of our conservation goal,” Harloff said. “We can use one of these (systems) for reducing our carbon footprint.”
Energy Conservation Source designed and installed the system on the roof of the 30,000-foot building, constructed by Westwind Construction.
The building company also has a solar panel system on its new building at the corner of Beechtree and Fulton streets in Grand Haven.
A spokesman for Energy Conservation Source said the system at Barrett’s would produce more than half the power needed (in total yearly usage) for all of the buildings at the marina.
In the summer, it will produce more than needed, he said.
Energy Conservation Source uses all U.S. made solar panels, the spokesperson said. Thus, the new tariff on imported solar panels does not affect their projects.
The spokesman, (company policy is they can not use their names in a story), said the U.S.-made panels are higher quality and do not degrade as fast as Chinese made panels. The domestic panels cost more, but the long-term investment will make up for a lot of that cost difference, he said.
Some of the first solar panels built in the U.S. in 1953 are still working, the spokesman said.
He noted that the panels accounted for about 15 percent of the cost of an installation. The rest of the cost comes from the inverters, labor, engineering, designs and permits.
“The system also protects the environment and human health by reducing CO2 and other emissions from traditional power plants,” the spokesperson said. “The system is fully automated; operating and maintaining the system will take Barrett Boat Works just a few hours per year.”