Published on November 1st, 2013 | by UC&D Magazine


Solar Gain

Despite nearly $2 million cost, ROI on Burton Lumber PV project expected to be just four years

By Brad Fullmer

In 2008 Burton Lumber began aggressively looking at ways to reduce costs and become more environmentally conscious. Programs were implemented company-wide, including paper and cardboard recycling, switching to more energy-efficient light bulbs in both the office and warehouse, and looking at myriad ways to reduce waste and energy usage.

The crown jewel of those efforts is a new state-of-the-art, 2,676-panel photo-voltaic system on its massive 4.5 acre roof at company headquarters in Salt Lake City, a $1.9 million project designed and installed by Hunt Electric of Salt Lake City that is the largest private solar PV array in Utah, according to Brok Thayn, Hunt’s Energy Department Manager. “It’s an impressive project; to see them doing these kinds of things resonates well,” said Thayn. “Not only is it cost-effective, it’s good for the environment.”burton.lumber

Beyond that it’s an investment that owner Jeff Burton, part of the family’s fourth-generation now running the 102-year-old company, says will be paid off in approximately four years through energy costs and various incentives through the federal government and Rocky Mountain Power (RMP). “To be able to turn an almost $2 million bill around in four years…it just makes sense,” said Burton, whose company hosted an open house to showcase the system on November 6. “We initially thought the ROI (return on investment) would be just under 10 years. We’re going to save a lot of energy with this system – it’s a big deal for us.”

The project came about when Thayn met Clint Barratt, Burton’s Energy Manager, at a Rocky Mountain Power
seminar in December 2012. Barratt had previously investigated solar panels a couple of years ago, but at that time it
didn’t make financial sense for the company. After hearing about government and utility incentives, it became
apparent that a PV system would be practical and affordable long term. Hunt provided both electrical design and installation of the 642 kW system, while CRS Engineers of Salt Lake designed the system’s structure. The 3.25 ft. by 5.4 ft. panels produce 240 watts each and were manufactured by Aleo of Germany, while the Panel One PV inverters were made in Camarillo, Calif.

Hunt spent two months with design and incentives, and then 100 days on installation from June 3 to September 11, a rate of 27 panels per day. The system includes a 20-year warranty, after which the panels will continue to produce energy at an approximate 80% rate. During the warranty period Thayn said the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is 2.1 cents/kWh (kilowatt hour), versus current average RMP rates of 3.5 cents/kWh. Ultimately, the PV system powers nearly 75% of Burton’s headquarters. “It’s a great opportunity to show the community and our customers that we care and do all we can to be efficient and mindful of the energy we use,” said Barratt. “We have five other locations in the state and we’d like to implement solar arrays on those buildings as well.”

Burton encourages other building owners to consider installing a PV system, particularly larger companies with
high energy consumption rates.“I think owners have to financially see if it fits their budget,” said Burton. “If the incentives stay the way they are I think it makes sense for big companies that use a lot of power. I can’t say it’s everybody’s niche to do this. We have 4.5 acres of roof space so for us it was great. I’m sure there are other business owners who want to help the environment. We’re all living on the same planet.”

Burton Lumber PV System
Total System Size: 4.4 acres; 642kW
No. of Panels: 2,672 240-watt solar
Panel Size: 3.25’ x 5.4’
LCOE: 2.1 cents/kWh (RMP current = 3.5 cents/kWh)
Start/Completion:June 3/September 11

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