THOMASVILLE — Precision Auto Craft Inc. is the first commercial enterprise in Thomasville to convert to primarily solar power.
“Over the last four to five years, we’ve had a number of customers interested in pursuing alternative energies. Precision Auto Craft is the first to actually see the process through to completion and we are looking forward to seeing how solar energy impacts their business operations,” said Jeremy Carter, electric engineering supervisor for the City of Thomasville.
Ken Barwick, owner of Precision Auto Craft, said that he had been interested in converting his business to solar for quite a while. He said he watched the price of solar drop over the last few years. When he learned of a program that gave a 30 percent tax incentive from the federal government for installing it, his interest grew.
Wayne Beggs, CFO for Triangle Energy Concepts, the eco-technologies company in Thomasville that handled the conversion, said, “Over the last four years, the cost of solar has come down 35 to 40 percent. Becoming ‘green’ is a big deal in corporate America. We help companies get that moniker. Sustainability helps reduce a company’s footprint and reduces energy costs.”
Beggs explained many businesses are primarily interested in their bottom line. “While not everyone we talk to is interested in solar, most businesses are interested in paying less on utilities. ”
Barwick said the environmental and cost savings drew him to the conversion. He has done the math and expects the savings in energy costs to be substantial.
“In six to eight years, the new system will pay for itself by offsetting the cost of electricity,” he said. “I figure that in about 17 years, we will basically have free electricity.”
“When companies learn they can actually save money and help the environment, it gives them pause and they ask, ‘Why haven’t I heard this before?’” Beggs said.
The weather-delayed three-month process involved installing a new cool roof system on Barwick’s building located at 1017 Jackson St. Then Triangle Energy Concepts Inc. installed solar panels across the top. Inside, Barwick also had Triangle Energy Concepts swap the building’s lighting over to LED.
Just the new roof has substantially reduced Precision Auto Craft’s electricity usage, according to Barwick.
The conversion was completed at the end of March. Barwick said he gets approximately 70 percent of his electricity from solar, but is still hooked up to Thomasville City Utilities.
“Being the first ones, there was definitely a learning curve, but the city was very easy to work with,” Barwick said.
Carter said, “From the City of Thomasville’s perspective, the process is relative administrative in nature. Once a decision is made to pursue an alternative energy source like solar, we will work with the customer to be sure the steps outlined in the interconnection agreement and the rate structure are understood. We want to be sure that customers understand the entire process and what to expect with converting to alternative energy sources.”
“While there is certainly a great deal of interest in alternative energy sources, there will always be a need for customers to have a quality, consistent and reliable power source. Unfortunately, the efficiency of solar energy solutions have not met advertised expectations in many cases, in part due to weather and other factors. For example, the overcast sky of the last few days would not be ideal environments for a consistent energy demand. The City of Thomasville has a responsibility to provide electric energy and capacity at all times throughout the year, whether it is a sole source customer or one partially supplemented by alternative power,” said Don Atkinson, assistant city manager.
He continued, “While our customers may be interested in looking for greener, less expensive alternative energies, we want to encourage our customers to thoroughly research their options to be sure that solar is the right choice to meet their goals. One helpful resource is the website www.IsSolarRightForYou.com, developed by Electric Cities of Georgia. While the benefits of solar energy are universal, the costs can vary. We encourage our customers to research the issue completely when making the decision to pursue solar as an alternative energy source.”
Triangle Energy Concepts assists clients in that process.
Beggs said, “We show people how to make more money without working harder. We are showing business how to operate more efficiently.”
He cautioned, “Companies need to embrace it (alternate forms of energy) or it will pass them by and they will be left to wonder, ‘What happened?’”