That’s a Lot of Solar!
By George Harvey
When Robert W. Therrien, Sr. and his brother, Maurice, bought The Melanson Company in 1952, it was a well-respected, 20 year old roofing and duct business in Gardner, Massachusetts. They soon moved it to Keene, New Hampshire, where it grew and prospered. Branches opened up in four other locations in New Hampshire and Vermont, doing various kinds of work related to roofing.
The Melanson Company’s approach to roofing is a bit more inclusive and diverse than that of most roofers. The company specializes in all types of low and steep slope roofing, precision metal fabrication, precision machining, acoustical ceiling installations, duct work, and wood processing equipment.
In an effort to continue to grow and diversify for its customers, it was natural that the business started to turn toward a new sort of product that was being mounted on top of the roofs they were installing, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. And so, Melanson’s solar PV subsidiary, Solar Source was acquired and came to Keene.
Installation of rooftop-mounted solar PV systems is best completed after a new roof installation. Otherwise, the roof may need to be replaced before the PVs do, adding expense to the project and lost production from the panels. Clearly, the perfect time to install a rooftop PV system on an existing building is the same time an old roof is replaced.
Now we can see that Melanson is a company that practices what it preaches and has been doing precisely what it has been telling its customers was the best approach to energy. It has been putting solar PVs on its own roofs.
Rob Therrien, the company’s current president, explained that the long term goal of the company includes installing substantial solar PV systems and other energy upgrades at all of the company’s campuses. So far, it has completed the PV systems on the company’s headquarters building in Keene, along with the locations in Bennington and Williston, Vermont.
The upgrades are not the dramatic deep energy retrofits we sometimes read about, but they have the advantage of being realistic representations of what ordinary people and businesses face in such installations. Starting with energy audits, so nothing is missed, Melanson is doing what work it can, when it can do it. It is an ongoing process that Therrien called “taking the opportunity to continue to improve what you are doing.” He explained, “As sections of our facilities are re-roofed, we look at installing solar as part of that project when it is feasible.”
The first campus to get a solar array was the A.C. Hathorne Company in Williston, Vermont. This is a 29.12 kilowatt (kW) DC array installed in April of 2011. It consists of 130 Sharp solar panels, each of 224 watts. Its performance has been established at 31,600 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year which offsets 25 tons of carbon emissions per year. This campus, at which about 45 people are employed, is getting about 62% of its electric power supplied from its solar system.
The Vermont Roofing campus in Bennington, Vermont was next to get its solar system. There are about 35 employees at this site. There were 132 Sharp panels installed, each of 240 watts output, producing a total capacity of 31.68 kW DC. This system was installed in May of 2012, and has shown production of about 35,000 kWh per year, or about 70% of the electricity used in the building. This equals an offset of 27 tons of carbon emissions per year.
The next big project has been Melanson’s main business office in Keene, New Hampshire. In addition to the offices, this site houses Solar Source, the company’s solar division, one of its roofing divisions, one of its precision metal fabrication divisions, a duct division, and Tri-State Acoustical Inc. It has about 90 employees, and unsurprisingly, it has the largest of these solar systems.
The Keene campus’ solar installation was completed in September of 2016. The array has a capacity of 86.68 kW DC and is made up of 197 Ten K Titan solar panels, each of 440W. The array is expected to produce about 112,800 kWh per year offsetting 87 tons of carbon emissions per year. This is about 42% of the electricity used at the campus.
The addition of solar panels is not the only energy work Melanson has been doing. Each site’s work has started with an energy audit, and the most important issues raised have been addressed. The progress has been toward dealing with the greatest problems, if any, and the low hanging fruit, so work remains at each site, to be addressed in due course. The work done has included insulation, switching to high efficiency lighting, work on heating plants and heat efficiency, and, of course, upgrades on roofing, where it is needed. The work is also done with a view to the adage, “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Rob Therrien said, “We use a lot of recycled insulation for our own roofs.” And yes, Melanson does help customers with that, if they want it.
Therrien said that a goal is to have solar installed at every Melanson campus as roof systems are replaced, replacing a high percentage of the company’s use of fossil fuels. Clearly, the work on energy and efficiency at The Melanson Company is an ongoing effort, whenever they get a chance, as they help customers with similar goals.