By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 4/2/19
MOUNT CRAWFORD — The InterChange Group formally unveiled its $3 million solar array systems that pepper the rooftops of four facilities across the Valley on Tuesday.
The system is the largest of its kind at any Virginia logistics firm and is the culmination of two years of work. The speakers for the unveiling were Devon Anders, president of InterChange Group; Anthony Smith, the CEO of Secure Futures Solar; Ricardo Colón, the director of business programs for the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development; state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R- Mount Solon; and Angela Navarro, the state deputy secretary of commerce and trade. “I’m excited that this innovation is here, and certainly as we look to where the future lies, there will be a lot lot more deployment of solar,” Hanger said. Mount Crawford-based InterChange provides industrial warehousing and logistics services. Secure Futures, a Staunton- based solar energy firm, installed 4,648 6-by-3.5-foot panels that weigh over 50 pounds. Secure Futures’ first installation was for Eastern Mennonite University in 2010.
The rooftops of the InterChange facilities were conducive to solar panels, said Erik Curren, the chief marketing and business development officer for Secure Futures. “They are in fact ideal for a solar installation,” he said. The panels will produce the same amount of electricity used by an average of 160 homes, 1.6 megawatts, and will offset InterChange’s electric power consumption by 45 percent. Not only do the panels demonstrate to customers InterChange’s “commitment to clean energy,” Curren said, but they also provide shade to the facilities.
“The idea is that this could reduce the temperature in the building and thus reduce the need to provide energy to cool inside the building,” he said.
InterChange was able to obtain tax credits and grants that helped cover the $3 million price tag, said Kevin Longenecker, the chief financial officer of InterChange.
Tax credits utilized by InterChange help to get a bulk of the cash investment back quickly, he said.
The USDA also provided $600,000.
Solar arrays are becoming increasingly popular, Navarro said.
“What we’re seeing is the economics of some of the larger solar facilities and these distributed rooftop facilities are becoming much more promising,” she said. And as industry grows, so do employment opportunities within green energy production. Last year saw an increase of 10 percent of solar jobs, which was mirrored in 2017, Navarrosaid. “These resources bring in significant revenue, but they also bring in significant jobs,” she said.
The number of jobs in the solar industry is starting to outnumber the jobs of entrenched markets, such as grocery stores.
“For all the grocery stores in Virginia and all their jobs, there’s now more [jobs] in clean energy and energy efficiency,” Curren said.
InterChange is in the process of expanding its business by building a new facility, which may also be equipped with a solar array.
“We are absolutely looking at solar at that one as well,” Longenecker said.