Lebanon warehouse converts to rooftop solar panels

The 1,600 rooftop solar panels on Bake Crafters’ commercial baking facility/warehouse in Lebanon will offset a predicted 770 metric tons of carbon emissions and meet the energy needs of the plant.
The 1,600 rooftop solar panels on Bake Crafters’ commercial baking facility/warehouse in Lebanon will offset a predicted 770 metric tons of carbon emissions and meet the energy needs of the plant. PHOTO/PROVIDED

One of Lebanon County’s major employers has taken a significant step toward renewable energy with the installation of an 800-kilowatt commercial solar array.

The 1,600 rooftop solar panels on Bake Crafters’ commercial baking facility/warehouse in Lebanon will offset a predicted 770 metric tons of carbon emissions and meet the energy needs of the plant.

Based in Tennessee, Bake Crafters is a family-owned, nationwide business with a presence in all 50 states that provides baking goods for K-12, colleges and universities, health care, military institutions, in-store bakeries and restaurants.

“We are pleased that Michael Byrd, owner of Bake Crafters, has taken a proactive approach and has invested in renewable energy,” Susan Eberly, president of the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corp., said in an email. “This long-term approach can be a model that is adopted by many others in the industry. Green energy is an underutilized option and is a key to sustainability. When we recruited Bake Crafters to the county, we were certain that they would be a good corporate neighbor and a great asset to our community.”

The roof-mount system will also help Bake Crafters’ bottom line, creating a $131,000 direct improvement to yearly cash flow.

Here are some other numbers that are the equivalent of 770 metric tons of carbon emissions saved from the atmosphere:

· 1,910,378 miles not driven by gas-powered cars each year

· Enough energy to power 97 homes every year

· 86,602 gallons of gasoline not used every year

· 1,782 barrels of oil not used every year

In a statement, Byrd said:

“Our hope was to lower our overall carbon footprint and be an example to our industry colleagues that going green can be possible for everyone. We were happy to partner with Genie Solar Energy; their expertise and use of USA-made components was a big differentiator. They were able to make good on their promises of keeping the project on schedule.”

This milestone will help accomplish Bake Crafters’ long-term sustainability goals as well as lower its carbon emissions. The approximately 1.1 million kilowatt hours saved on utility bills will allow the company to increase its profitability and growth potential, rewarding its employees and customers.

“Few commercial enterprises get to have this kind of positive effect on the wider community, and that makes this a truly momentous achievement for all involved,” Bake Crafters said.

And this “economically sound decision” is only the first step in Bake Crafters’ mission to become a more sustainable business. The company is excited for what comes next, as the plan is to continue pursuing renewable energy sources and technologies as part of a long-term approach to greener operations.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Wolf announces $2.5 million in Clean Energy Workforce Development Grants 

The Wolf administration announced a $2.5 million grant program Friday to boost the state’s clean energy sector as it tries to rebound from COVID-19 job losses. 

Five Clean Energy Workforce Development Grants of up to $500,000 will promote overall industry recovery from the pandemic. The state Department of Labor & Industry invites local workforce development boards to submit project proposals that would support at least 25 local or regional clean-energy businesses. 

Proposals are due March 14; the projects will kick off in July and continue through June 2025. 

A report last year from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that the state, which is a manufacturing hub for wind, hydro turbine and Energy Star products, shed 13,200 clean energy jobs between March and December 2020 because of the economic fallout from COVID-19. 

As the industry bounces back, skilled workers within the clean-energy sector are increasingly in demand. Even prior to the pandemic, at the end of 2019, eight in 10 clean-energy employers in Pennsylvania reported difficulty in locating qualified applicants, a release noted. Lack of experience and industry-specific knowledge were the main reasons. 

More skilled fabricators, assemblers and other manufacturing workers are needed, as well as construction and installation workers such as heating, ventilating and air conditioning mechanics, electricians and solar photovoltaic installers. 

The clean energy industry includes the technology sectors of energy efficiency, clean energy generation, alternative transportation, clean grid and storage and clean fuels. Among the subsectors are solar, wind, efficient lighting, hydropower, smart grid, electric vehicles, and biomass fuels. 

“This investment in the clean-energy sector’s workforce is an investment in the future of Pennsylvania,” Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier said in the release. “While its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is well under way, this is an industry that the Wolf administration wants to see thrive over the next decade. We need to be developing a talent pipeline now to make that vision a reality.” 

Wolf announces solar plan that could generate 191 megawatts in Pa.

A new initiative to replace nearly 50% of the state government’s energy usage with solar power was announced by Governor Tom Wolf on Monday and is the largest solar commitment by any government in the U.S. to date.

Through the new Pennsylvania PULSE (Project to Utilize Light and Solar Energy) initiative, the Wolf administration plans to build seven solar energy arrays across the state totaling 191-megawatts.

The project, part of Wolf’s GreenGov initiative, is expected to be completed on January 1, 2023 and will deliver 361,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year to 424 accounts across 16 state agencies.

“In issuing the GreenGov challenge, I charged the state government with leading by example in demonstrating sustainable governance and lowering greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the risks of climate change in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “This included significantly reducing energy use and pursuing an ambitious goal of obtaining at least 40 percent of electricity from clean energy generated in the state.”

London-based Lightsource BP has been contracted to build, own and operate the solar arrays, which will be constructed and operated to meet industry leading standards for low-environmental-impact solar sitting and design.

Solar arrays are planned for Columbia, Juniata, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and York counties. The project is estimated to create over 400 jobs and begin lowering carbon dioxide emissions statewide by 157,800 metric tons each year.

The Solar Renewable Energy Credits generated through the project will be retired when they are purchased by the state.

The initiative has received support through Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national solar energy advocacy group.

“This exciting, new investment in clean, renewable energy will save Pennsylvanians money and save Pennsylvanians’ lives,” said Dara Borthman, cofounder of Bucks County-based solar energy systems company, Exact Solar, and a member of Environmental Entrepreneurs. “At large-scale, solar is now the cheapest electricity in history according to the International Energy Agency, making this a smart economic move and one that will create thousands of well-paying, local jobs.”

Lancaster, Dauphin county businesses restart energy efficiency projects

The Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority awarded $1.7 million in COVID-19 Restart Grants for 11 projects across the state, including two businesses in Lancaster and Dauphin Counties.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said on Tuesday that the authority awarded the monies to approved energy efficiency, solar energy, high-performance building and electric vehicle charging projects that were paused because of the pandemic.

“We’re pleased to help this outstanding set of clean energy and energy efficiency projects get going again,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in a press release. “In addition to supporting current and new jobs to assist in Pennsylvania’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ll help improve air quality in their communities by lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce energy waste and demand on the grid.”

Phoenix Contact Development and Manufacturing Inc. in Middletown is slated to receive a $250,000 grant to install a 961 kW solar array on the roof of the company’s logistics center.

The array will provide about 40% of the electricity at the site.

In Lancaster, Kreider Property Improvements was awarded $60,800 for an 89.6 kW rooftop solar array on the company’s commercial property at 573 Willow Road in Lancaster.

Kreider was shut down for nearly four months because of the pandemic and completing the project will reduce operating costs while avoiding over 75 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the authority wrote in the release.

Other grant recipients were in Allegheny, Washington, Carbon, Erie, McKean, Northampton and Wayne counties.

The grants can be used to support re-hiring workers or hiring additional workers to complete the project quicker, making immediate equipment payments and restarting the project when it otherwise wouldn’t have been completed.

“The variety of these funded projects demonstrates the exciting potential of clean energy here and now, and reflects the growing interest that municipalities, businesses, and organizations around the state have in the benefits of clean energy,” said McDonnell.