BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER – A new solar project at Maumee Assembly & Stamping will reduce the company’s carbon footprint while saving millions of dollars on energy costs.
Solar panels have been installed on approximately 250,000 square feet of space on the facility’s rooftop and will be up and running next month. According to Jacob Carl, U.S. Utilities solar division manager, the panels will reduce the company’s energy consumption by 15 percent per month.
In February, installation began on the project, which is expected to cost $2.8 million. The COVID-19 pandemic set the project back several weeks, as product supply was interrupted due to the shutdown.
“Developing this project and running with it has been good,” Mr. Carl said. “A lot of people think that if you don’t have blazing heat, it (solar energy) won’t work well, but actually in a colder temperature with the sun on it, the modules perform better.”
Mr. Carl has overseen solar projects across the United States and he believes that projects in Ohio, like the one at the stamping plant, are on the rise.
“Each state has different incentives and I think now they are making it easier, and each state has energy goals, and that kind of helps as well,” he said.
The rooftop solar panels are the first of a three-phase solar project planned at the manufacturing plant. Phase 2 will include another 250,000 square feet of solar panels on the ground level of the plant’s property, which will reduce monthly energy consumption at the plant by 33 percent.
That project should begin in two years, and is expected to save the company approximately $200,000 annually in energy costs, Mr. Carl said.
Plant owner Stan Chlebowski said the project is important because solar is the future of energy.
“We know what the solar panels will produce today and as time goes on, we will generate our own power, and that is definitely going to make a big difference,” he said.
Mr. Chlebowski will invest a total of $4.8 million in the first two phases of the project and he expects to recoup those costs from earned savings in six years.
“The main reason for taking on the project is to reduce costs,” he said. “I was looking into the future. Our panels are good for 25 years, so after the payback, it will sure help this industry and keep this factory up to the jet age with what is in front of us.”
Mr. Chlebowski purchased Maumee Assembly & Stamping in 2009. Three years ago, he invested $3.5 million, through a Toledo Port Authority PACE loan for energy improvements, to upgrade the electrical distribution system and replace a portion of the roof with a new aluminum chip reflective surface, which absorbs heat and adds insulation. All of the lights inside the plant were also switched to new LED energy-efficient light bulbs.
With a firm commitment to supporting local businesses, much of the material for this project was purchased from local companies, including First Solar, which supplied the panels.
In addition to the stamping plant, Mr. Chlebowski has other business interests, including U.S. Utilities, which oversaw the solar project at the plant. The company has completed other solar projects in North Carolina, Illinois and Minnesota. The solar division is a turnkey operation that can fashion a solar program with many financial options, including federal tax credits for cities, schools, municipalities and private businesses.