With two solar thermal systems and a 150 kW photovoltaic rooftop array, Londonderry, N.H.-based Wire Belt Company of America has made solar power an integral part of its manufacturing process. Solar installer ReVision Energy recently expanded the manufacturer’s rooftop array, which was originally 100 kW.
Wire Belt manufactures customized conveyor belts, mainly for the food industry. For example, McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets are processed using the company’s conveyor belts. The belts are also in use at Dunkin’ Donuts, Quizno’s and many pizza chains, including Papa Gino’s and Domino’s.
ReVision Energy says the expanded solar array will boost Wire Belt’s ability to hold down operating costs and will further its goal of eventually offsetting 100% of the facility’s energy use through renewable technologies, a milestone already achieved at the company’s facilities in Germany and the U.K.
Wire Belt CEO David Greer is a passionate solar energy advocate. With a background as an engineer and a conservationist, he says solar “just makes sense.” His interest traces back to paying his first electric bill. Solar electric and solar thermal systems are also in place at Greer’s New Hampshire home.
“Manufacturing companies have many cost centers, and electricity can be a large cost,” according to Greer. “Anything we can do to drop our expenses helps to keep us competitive. Generating (theoretically) 40 percent of our own energy is like a huge relief valve. It is a cost center that we no longer really worry about, no matter what the electric utilities do with prices.”
Prior to investing in solar technologies, Wire Belt controlled consumption through the creation of an internal Energy Conservation Committee. Installing high-efficiency lighting, using occupancy sensors wherever possible and replacing the company’s HVAC system allowed Wire Belt to cut energy usage nearly in half. As Greer says, “I learned early on that the cheapest electricity there is, is the electricity you do not use.”
Greer says Wire Belt has received positive feedback for its solar efforts. “Many of our customers are very pleased,” he states. “Some have said that they truly appreciate companies like ours, and want to do business with us.”
Greer is a big promoter of solar and says outreach is important. “Overall, I am a conservationist,” he adds. “I believe that we should conserve and watch what we use and leave as small an impact as possible on the earth while not shutting down industry. Nowadays, capitalism is looked at as a bad thing by some. I try to be an example to my employees, customers and the community that there are good companies out there, just trying to do the right thing.”
Photo courtesy of ReVision Energy: Wire Belt CEO David Greer on the rooftop at his Londonderry facility.