The future looks bright for two local companies

By: Brad Smith, Telegraph Correspondent
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This November, if all goes as planned, Folsom will be home to one of the largest solar-powered facilities in the country. That’s when Aerojet’s $20 million 3.5-megawatt solar power system — located along White Rock Road — will go on line. Electricity created by the solar power system, Aerojet said, will provide more than 20 percent of the power required to operate the company’s groundwater remediation systems. “We’re very excited about it. This is a new direction for us,” said Linda Cutler, GenCorp vice president, corporate communications. GenCorp owns Aerojet. She said that this is the first time Aerojet has used a solar power system. Using solar, Cutler said, is Aerojet’s way of becoming more “green.” “Becoming more energy efficient is, in this day, a good economical move,” she said. “Of course, it’s good for the environment. This solar project is a very significant part of Aerojet’s environmental and sustainability initiatives.” Cutler said the benefits made the choice to use solar power “the logical thing to do.” According to Aerojet’s estimations, during the first year of its run, the new facility will: * Offset approximately 4,200 tons of carbon dioxide, 16.7 tons of sulfur dioxide and approximately 6.5 tons of nitrogen oxide that would have otherwise been produced using fossil fuel power production; * The first-year net clean energy benefits equate to offsetting approximately 8,270,000 car miles driven or the clean air benefits realized from planting 976,520 trees; and, * With a system life expectancy of 25 years, the cumulative life-cycle environmental offsets for a system of this scope are significant. Aerojet also estimates that it will save more than $10 million on its energy bill over the facility’s lifespan. In a press statement, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District stated that will provide more than $15 million in incentives over the project’s 25-year life from a fund established to aid SMUD in meeting California’s solar-power requirements. SMUD customers pay 2 cents into the fund for every 100 kilowatt-hours billed, the statement said. In order to make their plans for a viable solar power array a reality, Aerojet partnered with Solar Power, Inc., a company based out of Roseville, Cutler said. “Aerojet has made it home here in Northern California. It’s only natural that we work with a local company,” Cutler said. Mike Anderson, vice president of marketing for Solar Power, Inc., said that when his company got the job to build the array, it was “exciting.” “The solar power industry is relatively young. For a company (like Aerojet) to approach us about a project like this,” he said, “is a good sign. It tells me that Aerojet recognizes the potential of solar (technology) and its benefits, both economically and environmentally.” The solar array will be ground mounted utilizing a single-axis tracking system, designed to follow the course of the sun throughout the day to maximize electricity production. The solar array consists of approximately 18,000 200-watt modules mounted atop 12 tracking arrays, covering more than 20 acres of Aerojet-owned land. “When completed, the Aerojet facility will be one of the largest single-site industrial installations in the states,” Anderson said. Best of all, he feels, the facility will be built by local people and have a positive environmental impact on the area. “It’s a win-win situation,” he said. With Aerojet jumping on the solar power bandwagon, Anderson feels that other companies will follow suit, building solar units of their own. “And, for a company like ours,” he said, “that’s another win-win situation.”