FUQUAY-VARINA — The Bob Barker Co. is going green in a big way.
The detention center supply company has transformed a large section of the roof of its distribution and manufacturing center on Purfoy Road into a solar-panel system that will generate about 500 kilowatts of power a year.
It’s the same size as the solar farm on top of the Raleigh Convention Center, which is the 10th largest in the state.
The Bob Barker Co. will use the electricity to power the distribution center, a move that is expected to eventually cut the company’s electric bills by more than half.
The site uses about 1.2 million kilowatt hours a year, and the solar panels will generate about 700,000 kilowatt hours, said Nancy Johns, vice president of social responsibility and the daughter of the company’s founder, Bob Barker.
The idea to install solar panels has been in the works for years, but the technology has only recently become more affordable, Johns said.
The company paid about $1.5 million to install 1,963 photovoltaic panels that cover half of the roof, she said. It could take about six years for the company to start seeing a return on the investment.
The system began generating power on Dec. 20, and the company will have an official ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 18.
“We are a family-owned company and as part of a family-owned business, you tend to think more about the next generation,” Johns said. “That type of thinking leads us to think more about our impact on our community and environment.”
The company has a “Green Team” of employees from different departments who come up with ways to recycle more and reduce their energy footprint. One worker is partnering with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to repurpose the company’s vinyl scraps into over-the-chair folder pockets for students.
The company’s roof system is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 500 tons a year, equal to the carbon emissions from about 100 passenger vehicles. That’s enough energy to power 4,000 televisions.
“That’s a huge impact,” Johns said. “From what I understand, we would have to plant 2,430 trees to offset the same amount of CO.”
Johns said she hopes other companies will adopt ecofriendly practices.
“It’s a really good way to go about helping to make your company better,” she said. “It’s also a great way to save money.”
On weekends when the building isn’t in use, the Bob Barker Co. will sell unused power to Duke Energy.
Solar farms are a growing trend around the state. Apple owns the largest solar panel system in North Carolina. At 40 megawatts, it dwarfs Bob Barker’s 0.5 megawatt system and the new 1.9 megawatt system at the south Cary wastewater treatment plant. The 7-acre solar farm on West Lake Road opened Dec. 21. Cary leases the land to FLS Energy, a solar business, for about $45,000 a year. The power the farm generates will eventually go back into the grid to service the treatment plant and surrounding homes.