Great Bay Distributors to chill beer with sun power

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There were plenty of reasons for Great Bay Distributor to equip the roof of its new building with a solar power system, but Ron Petrini, CEO of the beverage supplier, sums it up this way: “It was the right thing to do.”

“We didn’t start with the tax benefits and return on investment and work backwards,” he explained. “It was something we had decided to do, and all the different advantages came as a pleasant surprise.”

He knew that the system would essentially pay for itself over a period of time. But he did not know that it would take approximately six years, after which it would offset

90 percent of the building’s energy cost going forward. Or that the cash gained over the system’s guaranteed 25- year lifespan would be close to $6 million. He did not know at the outset that Great Bay would be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit on project expenditures.

Those figures were provided by Solar Energy Management, the Tampa company that is building and installing the apparatus. CEO Scott McIntyre expects to begin putting in the solar array at the end of July and finish in three months.

Great Bay’s new Gateway- area headquarters and cold storage facility is slated for move-in February 2015.

When the 1.5-megawatt commercial system is complete, Solar Energy Management says it will be the biggest of its kind in Florida.

Petrini insisted that the entire project be American-made.

The 4,546, 2,330-watt solar panels will be manufactured by Suniva in Georgia. SMA America of California is providing 50 inverters, which convert the DC power of the panels to AC that the building can use.

McIntyre said the project will employ around 30 people — roofers, electricians engineers and other solar-industry personnel. Solar Energy Management will use several local subcontractors, among them PCM Solar of Pinellas Park, which will produce the racks to hold the panels, and American Steel in Tampa.

Petrini was further motivated to include solar because it’s a new facility. “It’s a much better proposition when you’re building from the ground up,” he said, “rather than retrofitting an existing building.”

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