Solar Panels Help Chesapeake Systems See the Bright Side of Renewable Energy

By Mark Dent

Chesapeake Systems is a company that thrives on cutting edge technology, strong customer service and modern workflows. As we head into 2017, we are also a company that’s looking to the sun.

The Chesapeake Systems workplace is already unique. Our offices are located in a former Methodist Church in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood. When the church was destroyed by fire in 2008, we jumped in and adapted the building for modern use. With the interior renovation long since complete, our eyes turned to the outside of the structure, which has an expansive, south-facing roof, making it perfectly positioned to reap the benefits of solar panels.

Combining that information with the fact that we could reduce our environmental footprint, gain more control of our energy usage and take advantage of substantial tax credits, made the decision to invest in solar panels both pragmatic and exciting.

The Logistics
Solar panels work by using photovoltaic cells to capture the sun’s energy, which is then transformed into Direct Current (DC). From there, an inverter transforms the DC to Alternating Current. Having the panels installed correctly was important to us, which is why we chose to work with a Maryland based, commercial solar installer, Pfister Energy. Fortunately, I had an established connection with the president, William Cole, who also owns a roofing company. As our expansive (and expensive) roof was installed as recently as 2010, it was important to me to work with a reputable company whose industry expertise I trusted. An added benefit was having the roof renderings readily available, which helped Pfister Energy with the installation process.

Purchasing and installing solar panels is not a quick process. From vetting the right company to securing the appropriate permits to the actual installation of some 80 solar panels, the project took over six months.

There were a few stumbling blocks along the way, but overall the process was extremely smooth and I can’t say enough about Pfister and what a great job they did. In addition to professionally and discretely installed solar panels (they are not visible to those driving down the main thoroughfare in Hampden), we can expect to see our monthly $1,800 gas and electric bill decrease by about $5,000 per year.

While the numbers speak for themselves about why this was a worthwhile investment, I really think this reflects the Chesapeake Systems’ philosophy of ownership and taking control. Many of our competitors rely on subcontractors, but at Chesapeake Systems we strive to hire and train our own workforce. This empowers us to control the cost, quality and results as much as possible – in the same way that owning solar panels enables us to control our energy usage as much as we can.

For any company considering going the solar route, I would recommend the following tips:
Start the process as early as possible, and allow yourself as many as six months to complete, because you only receive the tax credits for the years the panels are placed into service and things like weather and the permit process must be factored in.
Your power may be down for a brief period during the installation and the process will result in quite a bit of noise as workers bolt in equipment.
Doing an outright purchase, as opposed to renting, will result in a substantial amount of out-of-pocket costs, but you will see an ROI in as little as six tax years (depending on your roof size and size of your install). It could be less or more.
Consider the lifespan of your roof and time it correctly as you begin this project. You don’t want to install solar panels with a lifespan of 25 years, if your roof only has 10 viable years remaining.
In Maryland, businesses can benefit from SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Credit) revenue. State law requires power companies to purchase a certain percentage of energy from alternative sources (from either other companies or individuals who create renewable energy), so for every 1,000 kilowatt hours of clean, renewable, solar energy, one credit can be sold.
In Conclusion
Seeing the meters spin less will be exciting. I like the idea of not being so reliant on outside sources, and I think the real excitement will come when I see a gas and electric bill $5000 a year cheaper. But overall, it’s being in control of my destiny that is the coolest part of the whole thing.

Have questions about our solar project or want to learn more about what Chesapeake Systems does? Give me a call at 410-752-7729.