CORAL SPRINGS (CBS4) – Spread across the roof of a new Coral Springs fire station are rows and rows of solar panels.
They create 36,000 watts of energy annually and help to power the building below.
Hypower Renewable Energy Group — a Fort Lauderdale-based company — installed the panels through a federal stimulus grant. The panels are a small portion of the company’s reach in the renewable energy market.
Hypower’s Chris MacDonald said the company installed 38 million watts of solar energy in 2010 and is on pace to install 100 million watts in 2011.
Aside from climbing on top of roof’s on a daily basis, MacDonald is a tireless advocate for the advantages of solar, especially on Earth Day.
“This is a viable solution not only for South Florida but anywhere the sun’s shining,” MacDonald told CBS 4′s Carey Codd.
The rows of panels are made up of smaller cells that lay flat against the rooftop. MacDonald explained how each panel soaks up light, creating an electric charge that is passed onto several wires and fed into an inverter. That inverter converts the energy so that it can be used inside a building or home.
“The real advantage that a system like this has is the electricity’s being produced exactly where it’s being used,” MacDonald said. “You’re using every drop of that power right here.”
In less than a year, the panels have created loads of power. According to a website set up to monitor the output of the panels in real-time, the panels have created 24,266 kilowatt hours of power. That is enough energy to save nearly 2,000 gallons of gas or 18,000 pounds of coal.
Coral Springs Fire Captain Mike Moser said the environmental impact is a major benefit.
“It makes us feel good and we’re only one building here,” he said. “If it takes off to where we’d love to see it be in the future, then it would be even more trees and more gas.”
Moser said Coral Springs residents are reaping the rewards because the solar panels are expected to produce $8,000 in energy each year.
“That’s 8,000 in savings that the residents of Coral Springs don’t have to pay because we have this technology,” Moser said.
The fire station is but one of Hypower’s jobs. They also installed two sets of solar panels at Heron Heights Elementary in Parkland. They also partnered with FPL to create a solar farm in Cape Canaveral.
Ironically, the bulk of their business is done outside the Sunshine State. According to the company website, they have completed major projects in North Carolina, Kentucky and New Jersey.
However, they would like to see Florida legislators make solar power a priority, through incentives and legislation to create more space for solar.
MacDonald believes that by doing so, Florida would be primed to create jobs, help the environment and help residents save money on energy bills.
Hypower plans to open new headquarters in South Florida and add jobs.
“We’re definitely hiring people,” MacDonald said. “We’re teaching them a new skill, a new trade.”
Although most of Hypower’s business is commercial, MacDonald said solar is an option for homeowners — at a price.
“Your average homeowner is looking at a cost of anywhere between $10,000-$20,000 for an average size system,” he said. He added that federal incentives will cut that amount by a third, with a return on investment through savings on energy bills within 5-10 years.
Hypower believes its’ business is growing — and the sky is the limit.
“The sun is shining every day,” MacDonald said. “When you have an opportunity to be making electricity on site and using it on site and saving money and doing your part for the environment, every day should be Earth Day.”
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