RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. - The La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries, located here, recently completed installation of a 30kW, non-penetrating SunRoof FS flat roof photovoltaic (PV) system, capable of powering 10 to 20 average homes.

The building's unique system qualifies for a rebate from Pacific Gas and Electric Company's (PG&E's) Self-Generation Incentive Program, equal to half of the cost. In addition, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), through its relationship with the California Energy Commission's (CEC's) Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, helped reduce the initial cost of the system by contributing $40,000 worth of PV panels to the project.

Converting sunlight into electricity has several beneficial effects, including the reduction of greenhouse gases, while providing a renewable, sustainable and clean form of energy. However, while building designers, architects, and contractors may know about the "green" incentives, they are not always aware of the financial benefits available for commercial PV systems and, therefore, do not include PV in their plans. Often, owners of existing buildings are also unaware of these programs.

"The self-generation incentive program provides financial incentives to PG&E customers who install certain kinds and sizes of ‘clean' on-site distributed generation," said Anlin Ting-Mason, vice president of Internet and Energy Program Services at the utility. "We verified the La-Z-Boy

Furniture Galleries' system is authorized to operate in parallel with the electric grid, and that it meets other criteria established by the California Public Utilities Commission. Once this was done, we immediately issued them an incentive check for $83,567.50."

Paul Bender, SMUD's manager of power production, added that the development of the SunRoof FS system was partially funded through the CEC's PIER program.

"As part of our Renewable Generation Research and Development Program, SMUD was also able to contribute equipment to this installation, helping to further the Sacramento area as a center for the development, testing, and implementation of new renewable generating technologies," said Bender.

Jim Reego, owner of the Rancho Cordova store, wanted to install a system to reduce his electricity bills and to help reduce pollution. Reego contracted with RWE Schott Solar Inc. (RSS), a manufacturer and distributor of solar power components and systems headquartered in Billerica, Mass., to build a system that would meet his needs. The company engineered the project and coordinated with PG&E and SMUD to be sure the store qualified and received funds from the state's incentive program. The system has a life expectancy of 25 years, and with the financial incentives in place, has a payback period of approximately seven years.

"There's no doubt we wanted to install this system to bring our electricity costs down. But it wasn't just that. We wanted to make a contribution that reduces greenhouse gases and helps California obtain a level of energy independence," said Reego. "Even without the financial incentives we would eventually break even and have the system pay for itself. With the incentives, the break-even point comes a lot faster and our savings just continue to grow."

Tom Starrs, vice president of Sales and Marketing for RSS, is pleased with the results, too.

"There is a real opportunity for small and medium size businesses to install their own PV power generating stations on their buildings and to reap the benefits these financial incentive programs offer," said Starrs. "In addition, as this market continues to grow, there is an opportunity for businesses specializing in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, as well as roofing and electrical contractors, to add PV to their operations, using RSS for their design and engineering needs."

For more information regarding RWE Schott Solar Inc., visit rweschottsolar.com.

Publication date: 11/03/2003