Pasadena business owner taps into solar power

Brett Barnard has 744 solar panels on the roofs on his two Pasadena businesses - STORBOX Self Storage business and The Wine Grotto. It’s the largest non-institutional photovoltaic solar array in the city. His 14-year-old son Cole is shown here in front of some of the panels.

Brett Barnard has 744 solar panels on the roofs on his two Pasadena businesses - STORBOX Self Storage business and The Wine Grotto. It’s the largest non-institutional photovoltaic solar array in the city. His 14-year-old son Cole is shown here in front of some of the panels.

By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Brett Barnard has solar panels — lots of ‘em.

In fact, the panels that sit atop his two Pasadena businesses — STORBOX Self Storage business and The Wine Grotto — make up the largest non-institutional photovoltaic solar array in Pasadena.

The system, completed six weeks ago by Torrance-based California Solar, includes 744 panels that deliver 230 kilowatts of power. It’s enough to provide nearly 100 percent of his annual energy needs.

“We’re planning to expand that with 70 more panels on a new building,” the South Pasadena resident said. “It will be a 43,600-square-foot building that will have five levels, three above ground and two below ground.”

The solar system didn’t come cheap.

“The total cost of the panels and installation was about $515,000,” Barnard said. “But I had also had the wrong kind of roofing system, so I had to put a whole different kind of roofing in. That cost me another $240,000, so the total was about $755,000.”

Fortunately, a significant portion of those costs were offset by federal, state and local incentive programs.

“It takes a fair amount of effort to learn about this and we shopped around and looked at 10 to 12 different installers,” Barnard said. “The federal government is offering a 30 percent tax credit, so the installation costs were covered, and the city also has an incentive program that pays you back for solar production.”

The incentive program is part of the Pasadena Solar Initiative, which aims to help Pasadena Water & Power customers install 14 megawatts of solar power by 2017. Under the program, eligible solar customers can get a cheaper net energy metering (NEM) rate until the aggregated capacity of all solar installations in the utility’s territory exceeds 5 percent of its system peak demand.

Barnard also plans to integrate a battery system into the mix once the 70 new panels are installed. California Solar owner Will Breiholz explained how that will work.

“This is a new trend,” he said. “When a business turns on its air conditioning or other equipment that can cause a spike in energy use. Utility companies check their meters every 15 minutes and whatever the peak use was is what they’ll charge someone for the month, even if they don’t get nearly that high for the rest of the month.”

The battery system will store energy that can later be used during peak times, so Barnard won’t draw have to draw that energy from the city’s power grid. That will help keep his rates down, Breiholz said.

The battery system will also ensure that power to the two business can continue — at least for a while — in the event of an earthquake or other disaster.

“Brett was also smart to do the new roofing system,” Breiholz said. “UV light is what kills your roof, and if you have a solar system that will last 35 to 40 years you don’t want to put that on top of a roof that might last another 10 years. He replaced his old roof with a single-ply roof that’s white and made out of a vinyl kind of material that you roll down. It’s a synthetic material that’s kind of like PVC, and it lasts forever.”

The solar panels also help shade the roof from unwanted sun-related damage, Breiholz said.

Self-storage facilities typically don’t use a lot of electricity. But The Wine Grotto does because the wines must be kept at an optimum temperature.

“I have about 600 clients who store their wines here,” Barnard said. “We have a total of about 200,000 square feet of space, including the self-storage space, 5,000 square feet of office space we lease and 13,000 square feet for the wine storage.” 

Brad Heavner, policy director for the California Solar Energy Industries Association, said self-storage facilities are prime candidates for solar arrays — not because they use a lot of electricity, but because they have plenty of roof space.

“It would be great because they could charge someone to use the space on their roof,” he said. “About 3 percent of the total residents and businesses in California have solar power.”

Source: http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/environment-and-nature/20160612/pasadena-business-owner-taps-into-solar-power