BY NAOMI VELAZQUEZ GREENE
Harnessing the sun’s energy is the newest project undertaken by engineering firm Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, and it’s the largest such project in Springfield.
Headquartered in Springfield, CMT just completed installation of a solar plant atop its west side office, which promises to save energy while serving as a model for clients.
Thomas Roy, CMT’s chief financial officer, says the project arose through an association between CMT’s office in Aurora and WCP Solar, a Naperville-based company.
“Dr. Everton Walters (WCP’s CEO) suggested a system for our Aurora office which wasn’t going to work, because we lease the building,” Roy said.
Instead, WCP submitted a project proposal for the Springfield office. Roy says he was hesitant at first, but he agreed to look at the numbers. The original design called for just installing rooftop solar panels. However, when CMT considered how much energy the solar panels could generate and the potential long-term savings, the company decided to go all in, installing a rooftop system and carports topped with additional solar panels.
The total cost for the project, with more than 3700 solar panels, is expected to total $1.8 million, funded by a group of investors, plus incentives and tax rebates. The project, known as a ‘solar plant,’ is billed as the largest solar carport system in Illinois and connects directly to the CWLP power grid.
CMT will initially lease the system from the investors.
“After seven years of making lease payments, plus $250,000, CMT will do a buyout and own the system,” explains Roy. “The investors will have a tax benefit as well as a 30 percent federal tax credit.”
One byproduct of the carports is to shade vehicles. More significantly, however, the carports will provide 66 percent of CMT’s energy, while the rooftop panels will provide an additional 34 percent. In all, the system will generate 493,000 kilowatt hours of green electricity annually. That amounts to more than 12 million kilowatt hours of energy over the 25-year life of the system. The environmental impact amounts to 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide reduced over the same period.
CMT’s system will generate Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), which the company can sell on the open market, with a potential revenue of about $1 million once the rates are established. There is also the benefit of utility cost savings, which Roy estimates at about $70,000 per year. By comparison, the cost of operating the system is expected to be about $4,000 to $5,000.
“When we started looking at the numbers, it seemed too good to be true,” Roy said. “But the numbers are compelling.”
In fact, the numbers are so compelling that CMT is now considering a solar system for its office building in Indianapolis and for a possible new office in Peoria.
CMT’s project also engaged local businesses API Solar, B&B Electric for the electrical connections and O’Shea Builders for the labor. According to Roy, the project has also employed local temp construction workers, providing them with solar installation experience.
Roger Austin, director of marketing at CMT, says the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, enacted in December 2016, makes solar even more attractive. Having seen the solar experience first-hand, CMT is now primed to help its clients decide whether solar makes sense for them and to address the growing interest that businesses have in decreasing their carbon footprints.
“Solar is emerging, and with the new legislation, we’re going to see more of these,” Austin said. “As engineers, we’re always trying to help our clients do more with less, so we can help them with these types of projects.”
CMT has scheduled a ribbon cutting and open house of its solar project for September 28.