Southern Energy Management (SEM), a North Carolina-based sustainable energy company serving the Southeast, broke ground over the weekend on a commercial solar thermal system that will generate hot water for an employee cafeteria at SAS, the leader in business intelligence and analytical software and services, based in Cary, NC. SEM also is a key partner in the design and installation of SAS’ 1-megawatt solar electric power farm, led by SunPower Corporation, a manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels and solar systems. Both solar projects, which are part of SAS’s continuing sustainability efforts to conserve environmental resources, are scheduled for completion by the end of the year.
The solar water heating system, which includes 24 solar thermal collectors, each about four feet by ten feet, is being installed on the roof of Building T, a six-story existing office building on SAS’ main campus. The system will supply clean, renewable energy that will primarily be used to heat water in the building’s employee cafeteria, reducing natural gas used for water heating by 50 percent. The solar collectors will provide insulation against future price volatility while eliminating about 14.5 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
“The sustainability efforts SAS is undertaking on our Cary headquarters campus are not only good for the environment, but make good sense from a business perspective as well,” said Trish Dowty, vice president of corporate services for SAS. “We’re hoping other companies will see the value. We’re especially pleased to be working with a North Carolina company on these initiatives. The lessons we learn can help advance the availability of sustainable energy across our state.”
Upon completion, SAS’ new solar thermal system will be one of the largest commercial solar water heating systems in NC, helping raise awareness of large-scale renewable energy and the benefits it offers businesses, their employees, their communities and the environment.
“To put this system’s size in perspective, its annual hot water generation capacity will be equivalent to the annual output of about 15 typical residential solar water heaters,” said Blair Kendall, business development director for SEM. “For companies like SAS that are committed to sustainability and want to save resources and money over the long-term, solar water heating is an attractive part of the bigger sustainability puzzle.”
In fact, for companies that use a significant amount of hot water, solar water heating is often one of the most cost effective solar technologies, considering up front investment costs, energy production, and environmental impact. SAS’ solar thermal system on Building T has an anticipated payback of less than five years – a solid investment by most standards.
Another big piece of the puzzle for SAS is its 1-megawatt solar photovoltaic farm, comprised of 5,040 ground-mounted panels on five acres, which will become one of the largest solar electric systems in the Southeast. SEM is the primary contractor for SunPower on the project, providing engineering and project management support, as well as installation of the photovoltaic and AC/DC electrical phases of the project. The electricity it generates will pump clean energy into the local utility grid, eliminating more than 1,600 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
SEM, which currently employs about 50 energy efficiency and solar professionals in the Triangle and Charlotte, has been providing sustainable energy solutions for businesses, home builders, and home owners since the company was founded in 2002. In recent years, several macro-level trends have contributed to the advancement of sustainable energy, including the rising costs of energy and fuel, growing concern about climate change, and increasing demand for energy independence. At the same time, the cost of many renewable technologies has decreased and legislation has been passed for incentives that can help pay for a significant portion of solar investments.
“As a local company that started with me and my wife Maria in our den seven years ago, we’ve seen people and businesses go from thinking solar was a crazy idea to seeing solar as a viable mainstream option for their homes and businesses,” said Bob Kingery, co-founder and director of operations at SEM.
“At this time last year, we were working on milestone commercial solar systems that were only a fraction of the size of the solar electric and solar water heating systems SAS is investing in, so we’re seeing the bar continually raised and we’re grateful for the real commitment from companies like SAS to be leaders. Our team is excited we’re able to be a local partner helping them make progress toward their broader sustainability goals.”
About Southern Energy Management
SEM (southern-energy.com) is a leading sustainable energy company delivering energy efficiency and turn-key solar solutions to residential, commercial and industrial clients across the Southeast. The company’s two-part mission is to have a measurable impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and to integrate sustainability into everything we do. SEM has designed and installed more residential and commercial solar systems, and inspected/verified more energy efficient and green homes than any other company in the Southeast. With a team of about 50 sustainable energy professionals working from offices in Raleigh and Charlotte, SEM is consistently recognized as an industry leader both locally and nationally. SEM was among a handful of companies in the U.S. to earn the National Energy Star Partner of the Year award in both 2007 and 2008, and was recently named a finalist for the Triple Bottom Line Award by Sustainable North Carolina.
SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. With innovative business applications supported by an enterprise intelligence platform, SAS helps customers at 45,000 sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world The Power to Know®.