Switch to solar gets warm reception

Pan­els are be­ing in­stalled on roofs of a Rhawn­hurst apart­ment com­plex, and the state DEP likes what it sees.

The sec­ret­ary of the Pennsylvania De­part­ment of En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion was on hand for the re­cent ded­ic­a­tion of sol­ar pan­els at a loc­al apart­ment com­plex, and he de­clared the in­nov­a­tion an ex­ample of the Amer­ic­an en­tre­pren­eur­i­al spir­it.

Mike Kran­cer, a law­yer from Bryn Mawr, be­came DEP sec­ret­ary after Gov. Tom Corbett took over as gov­ernor in Janu­ary.

Lindy Prop­erty Man­age­ment, which op­er­ates three Long­wood Man­or apart­ment build­ings near Ben­son Street and Roosevelt Boulevard in Rhawn­hurst, in­vited Kran­cer to see the 32 sol­ar pan­els — 16 apiece on the roofs of build­ings A and B.

Build­ing C will be equipped with the pan­els in the near fu­ture, and its res­id­ents will be­gin tak­ing showers and wash­ing their dishes with wa­ter heated by the sun, in­stead of from nat­ur­al gas.

Rush­forth Sol­ar LLC designs and in­stalls the en­ergy-sav­ing, high-ef­fi­ciency sys­tems, which rely on heat from the sun to de­liv­er hot wa­ter to res­id­ents.

Be­sides apart­ment build­ings, Rush­forth spe­cial­izes in ho­tels, Laun­dro­mats, nurs­ing homes, fit­ness cen­ters and any place that uses lots of hot wa­ter year round.

A build­ing’s op­er­at­or saves on en­ergy costs and is do­ing something good for the en­vir­on­ment, sup­port­ers ar­gue.

Rush­forth, based in Bryn Mawr, has been re­ly­ing on a fed­er­al in­vest­ment tax cred­it and state sub­sidies to keep costs down, though those dol­lars are not ex­pec­ted to last much longer.

Pro­ponents of sol­ar heat presen­ted Kran­cer with pe­ti­tions call­ing on the state to keep sup­port­ing the pro­gram.

The sec­ret­ary vis­ited the high-ef­fi­ciency wa­ter tanks in the base­ment and was im­pressed with the sol­ar pan­el sys­tem, adding that the state — spe­cific­ally the staff of en­ergy ex­ec­ut­ive Patrick Hende­r­son — would prob­ably con­sider ad­di­tion­al funds if the ini­ti­at­ive could de­liv­er a “big­ger bang for the buck.”

“You would help me if you would make the case,” he told the en­vir­on­ment­ally con­scious crowd of busi­ness and non-profit folks.

Kran­cer, who said he came to Long­wood Man­or on a “fact-find­ing mis­sion,” ex­pects Pennsylvania to con­tin­ue to de­liv­er a di­verse en­ergy port­fo­lio that in­cludes coal, nuc­le­ar, nat­ur­al gas, sol­ar and wind.

Long­wood Man­or is loc­ated along the west side of Roosevelt Boulevard, between Ben­son and Hoffnagle streets.

In ad­di­tion to the sol­ar pan­els, Lindy Prop­erty Man­age­ment fo­cuses on oth­er en­vir­on­ment­al as­pects — en­cour­aging re­cyc­ling and wa­ter con­ser­va­tion and in­stalling en­ergy-ef­fi­cient win­dows, boil­ers, light­ing and heat­ing, vent­il­a­tion and air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems.

The sol­ar pan­els, though, are the most prom­in­ent, on the roofs of two build­ings near Roosevelt Boulevard.

“They ba­sic­ally make a state­ment to the thou­sands and thou­sands of people go­ing back and forth,” said Alan Lindy, a long­time part­ner in the com­pany.

The crowd at Long­wood Man­or in­cluded Matt Carlson, CEO of Vir­gin­ia-based Sun­nov­a­tions Inc., a sol­ar hot wa­ter com­pany that does busi­ness in Pennsylvania, and Eliza­beth Cramp­ton, an as­so­ci­ate with the Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Net­work of Great­er Phil­adelphia.

Sean Crane, co-founder of Delaware County-based Ho­meT­own Green, said his com­pany’s largely sub­urb­an audi­ence is catch­ing on to the sig­ni­fic­ant cost sav­ings that can be gained by us­ing sol­ar en­ergy and oth­er green re­com­mend­a­tions.

Alex Fuller-Young, out­reach co­ordin­at­or for Pen­nFu­ture’s Cen­ter for En­ergy, En­ter­prise and En­vir­on­ment, es­tim­ated that the state has 600 sol­ar com­pan­ies that have worked on some 4,000 pro­jects.

“Pennsylvania is a na­tion­al lead­er in sol­ar jobs,” he said.

Bob El­well, pres­id­ent of Mont­gomery-County-based Hick­ory Ridge Sol­ar, said sev­er­al coun­tries man­date the use of sol­ar heat.

El­well said the prac­tice is good for the en­vir­on­ment, cre­ates jobs and makes eco­nom­ic sense for a simple reas­on.

“The sun’s free,” he said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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