MILLVILLE, N.J.—“Let the sun shine; let the sun shine in” may well be the practical mantra for Service Tire Truck Centers Inc. (STTC).
The Bethlehem, Pa.-based commercial tire dealer and retreader, taking advantage of a New Jersey energy policy and federal tax credits, installed 1,000 solar panels on the roof of its 40,000-sq.-ft. Millville Michelin Retread Technologies retread plant in May 2006 at a cost of $1.1 million.
STTC, which claims the panels reduce the plant's monthly electric bill of $8,000 to $9,000 by about a third, was able to recoup 60 percent of its outlay from the state of New Jersey and also earned a federal tax credit covering the rest of the expenditure.
If it wasn't for government help, though, STTC would not have been able to embark on this project, according to Walter Dealtrey, STTC chief operating officer.
“To generate $3,000 a month in electricity, no one in their right mind would invest $1.1 million,” he said.
Mr. Dealtrey got the idea for the panels at a dealer meeting where a contemporary was taking advantage of a similar government-aided project in California.
The amount of money put up by the State of New Jersey was dependant upon how big of a system STTC was going to install. The company ended up installing a 160-kilowatt system.
In addition to the help in funding, Mr. Dealtrey now also has the ability to sell renewable energy credits (REC), or in this case solar renewable energy credits (SREC).
Just as there is a market for coal and oil, there also is a market for these credits. Not all companies use renewable energy, so to be in compliance with the law they need to generate REC or support the production of them, according to Mr. Dealtrey.
An intermediary figures out how many kilowatt hours his plant uses from solar energy, allowing STTC to sell the credits. Buyers can then show energy regulators that their quota for renewable energy has been met, he said.
According to an Australian government Web site, solar energy works because:
c Light from the sun consists of particles called photons. Photons are absorbed by the solar panels.
c The direct current (DC) from the sun is converted into a 240-volt alternating current (AC) at 50 Hertz in the grid inverter.
c The kilowatt-hour (kWh) meter keeps track of the total amount of electricity produced by the solar panels.
c Electricity goes to the main switchboard where it can then be used to power appliances and equipment.
When the solar panels generate more electricity than needed, the excess power is exported to the grid. In case of a cloudy day where no solar energy is produced, the grid can power the switchboard with its surplus of energy. The grid also provides electricity to the switchboard when more energy is being consumed than produced.
While the solar panels are environmentally friendly, Mr. Dealtrey does not see STTC as a green company. He said he believes being green is the nature of his business.
“All retreaders, in my opinion, are green…. You are retreading tires, we are saving oil,” he said. “Ultimately the people buying retreads are the ones we should thank. They create the demand for the product we are making.”
According to STTC's Web site, it requires approximately 22 gallons of oil to produce a truck tire while a retread requires only seven gallons. STTC manufactures approximately 200,000 retreads per year, reducing the country's oil consumption by 3 million gallons annually.
Mr. Dealtrey couldn't say if the solar panel's green appeal has driven any business his way, but he said he believes it was the smart thing to do.
“Bottom line is, at the end of the day, we've lowered our electric bill a little bit, we'll get a payback on the investment over seven years, and as far as I'm concerned it's a good thing to use solar as opposed to electricity,” he said.