CAN DO helps Humboldt plant procure $2M for solar panels

CAN DO, through its new Energy Solutions program, helped a national company receive more than $2 million in state funding for the largest rooftop solar panel project in Pennsylvania.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority on Thursday approved a $2.1 million grant for a 2-megawatt rooftop solar panel system at Romark Logistics, a national distributor with a 523,000-square-foot facility along Route 924 in Humboldt Industrial Park.

Photovoltaic panels atop Romark’s massive roof will generate the equivalent energy used by 269 average American homes in a year.

Based on the most recent 12 months of utility bills, the solar system will offset nearly 40 percent of the facility’s electricity needs.

“Over the next 25 years, as Romark Logistics implements more energy-efficient measures into the building, the total draw from the utility will decrease and the overall percentage of solar as a primary source of electricity will increase,” said Ryan T. Ziegler, director of facilities management at Romark’s Humboldt center.

“We at Romark Logistics would like to thank the state for granting our application and letting this project move forward. Romark Logistics has a strong sense of urgency and responsibility to demonstrate that zero-landfill and zero-carbon-footprint industrial buildings can be operated effectively. We continue to want to set the example and pave the way for others to follow.”

Based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the Romark Logistics solar project will avoid 4.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year, equivalent to removing 360 cars annually from the roads of Pennsylvania (4,571 barrels of oil) or planting 449 acres of trees.

The rooftop solar system will not be visible to those on the ground, and is a silent operation with no moving parts.

Romark, which employs more than 110 people, will use all of the power generated by the solar panels, which will eliminate the need for nearly 2.4 million kilowatt hours of conventional energy generation from the local grid.

Company officials estimated the work will be complete in June. The lifespan of the solar panels is estimated at 25 years or more.

As another component of the project, Romark and Penn State Hazleton will undertake a collaborative effort to educate students about alternate energy.

Penn State students may provide comprehensive multidisciplinary assistance to Romark in the form of technical writing, design of a Web site to monitor energy usage, the actual monitoring of energy usage, and more. The curriculum is still under development.

“The Penn State Hazleton community is certainly excited about the grant. This is an excellent opportunity for the region, as well as for our students,” said Penn State Hazleton Chancellor Dr. Gary Lawler. “We are focused on being an educational leader in alternative energy within Pennsylvania and greatly welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Romark and CAN DO.”

The Romark solar project is the first major success for CAN DO Energy Solutions, a new venture by Greater Hazleton’s economic development agency that provides energy upgrades, customized financial packaging of grants and loans, solar and wind energy solutions, reverse electricity auctions, free energy audits, and more.

Bernadette J. DeBias, CAN DO director of economic development, said it is the type of project the organization envisioned when it launched Energy Solutions.

“We are able to help a local employer secure a substantial amount of funding to implement a renewable energy program and reduce their energy costs. This will make their local facility more energy efficient and improve their bottom line,” DeBias said.

With electricity rate caps expiring, DeBias said companies are looking closely at their energy costs.

“CAN DO Energy Solutions wants to foster an environment where energy efficiency and renewable energy projects are routine,” she said. “This will not only help protect the jobs that are here, but also create a whole new sector – green jobs, which are seen as an integral part of the economy over the next several decades.”

In 2008, Romark invested in a major energy reduction project by replacing every lighting fixture in the facility – more than 700 – with ultra-high-efficiency T5 fixtures in order to decrease demand prior to and in preparation for a solar investment. The lighting and controls project resulted in savings of 1,509,471 kilowatt-hours per year for a savings over $100,000.

For more information about CAN DO Energy Solutions, call DeBias at 455-1508, ext. 2025.