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Here comes the sun

Anne Knowles
info@nnbw.biz
Fortifiber manufactures residential and commercial construction products in a 165,000-square-foot facility in Fernley.
Courtesy Fortifiber |

A Fernley manufacturer is installing a solar photovoltaic system with the aid of a grant for rural businesses.

Fortifiber, a maker of home and commercial construction materials that guard against water and moisture damage, is adding a 499 kilowatt array of solar panels to help power its 165,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and corporate headquarters.

The project, being installed by Reno’s Hamilton Solar, will cost just under $1.5 million, according to Chris Yount, president and chief operating officer of the family-owned, 76-year-old business.

A Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the amount of $373,429 will cover about 25 percent of the cost.

The grant plus other incentives, including a 30 percent federal investment tax credit, will pay for about half the project’s cost, giving the company a 4.5 year payback period on it.

The solar array will generate about 39 percent of the power needed to run Fortifiber’s northern Nevada operations and is expected to save about $86,000 annually in electricity costs.

Yount says the company began investigating solar power for a couple reasons.

“The first was economic. Power costs continue to go up and we use a fair amount of power so we were looking for a way to make sure our energy costs didn’t continue to climb,” said Yount, whose grandfather founded the company in Los Angeles.

“And the second piece is environmental. We’re a third-generation company so we think generationally, not for the next quarter.”

In his research, Yount discovered locally-based Hamilton Solar.

“They really understand the market and the best company to set up the right system that would be good and reliable for 20 plus years,” said Yount.

Hamilton also assisted the company with alternatives for financing the project, especially since the Fernley-based Fortifiber is considered a rural business.

“We had some consultants help us apply for the grant. We went through the application which was very lengthy,” said Yount. “They didn’t have enough money in the 2014 cycle to fund us but they told us they loved our project and were getting a new batch of funding in 2015.”

In February, the USDA announced it had $280 million available in energy grants for rural businesses.

Because Fortifiber won’t be generating more power than it uses, the company won’t be selling any electricity back to the grid.

But it will be able to get credits from NV Energy for power produced when the site isn’t operating.

“If we’re not doing anything on a Sunday then the power will go to homes,” said Yount. “So say we generate 50 kilowatts on Sunday that we don’t use then the first 50 kilowatts on Monday will be free.”

The system is expected to generate 886,700 kilowatt hours annually.

Hamilton began installing the 1,790-panel system two weeks ago and Yount said the company expects to be using power from it by October.

The company unveiled the project last Thursday at its plant. USDA State Director Adler and Fernley Mayor Roy Edgington were expected to attend the event.