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Injection molding company installs solar to slash energy costs

Clare Goldsberry

March 9, 2016

3 Min Read
Injection molding company installs solar to slash energy costs

Alpha Rho (Fitchburg, MA), an injection molder of rigid plastic boxes of various sizes and shapes, has decided to go solar. The company will produce more than 80% of its power requirements to run the company’s manufacturing, warehousing and administrative operations, according to President David Tall, who discussed this decision with PlasticsToday.

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Tall explained that he has looked at solar a couple of times as a way to save money on his energy bills for the 12-press company. “Two previous times we looked at it, and it’s always seemed too good to be true,” said Tall. “This time we looked seriously at solar and decided that it is that good to be true. We’re a small business, so I wear a lot of hats and there are always so many things to think about other than solar power. On the third pitch, we looked more closely at what we can save and decided that financially it makes sense.”

The solar energy system will be installed by New England Clean Energy on the roof of Alpha Rho’s 36,000-square-foot facility in April. It will have 745 Canadian Solar 320-watt panels, SolarEdge inverters with optimizers under each panel and Sollega racking and mounting hardware. The system is projected to deliver electricity savings of more than $1.6 million over 25 years (factoring in inflation). In addition, Alpha Rho will benefit from a new revenue stream created by the sale of solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs), arranged by New England Clean Energy.

To finance the solar, Alpha Rho opted for a seven-year traditional lease from LFC Capital Inc., which eliminated any upfront capital investment. Instead, Alpha Rho will make 100% tax-deductible fixed monthly payments, creating a low-cost path to ownership at a substantially reduced price.

“The return on investment with solar is phenomenal,” commented Tall. “The low cost of ownership thanks to the LFC lease, plus the SREC income and electricity savings, add up to a significant impact on our bottom line profitability, while we do something good for the planet at the same time.”

The environmental benefits of installing solar are “as appealing as the financial benefit.” Tall added, “the solar energy system will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by 412,800 pounds per year, which is equivalent to taking 39 cars off the road, or planting almost 150 acres of trees.”

Because of the rebates and SREC, Massachusetts is a solar-friendly state to be in, even though it’s one of the more costly states for energy in the country. And while it’s not exactly the “sunshine state,” Tall said there are on average enough sunny days to make solar energy worthwhile.

“I generate what I need for the plant and whatever I generate and don’t use goes back into the grid,” Tall said. “However there is some controversy currently in the legislature. Some want to increase the cap on the amount of unused electricity that goes back into the grid. Others, primarily the utility companies, are in opposition to raising the cap. That’s an issue. We’re on a waiting list for the net metering program, and I don’t know whether I’ll get it, but I’ll probably use most of what I generate, which will still give me a reduced electric bill through credits.”

There will be some maintenance costs for the solar panels. The converters that turn the sunlight into energy tend to fail like any piece of equipment, which will require replacing them from time to time, Tall explained.

Tall did his homework before deciding to put in solar. “I called around and talked to people in this business park who have solar and no one had anything negative to say. Everybody ran the numbers; on paper, it’s supposed to really save me a lot of money.”

Tall figures he’ll save about $64,000 annually if the numbers work. “There’s definite savings to be had, but until you get up and running, you never really know,” he said.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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