Make us your home page
Instagram

Great Bay Distributors to top its new building with state's largest private solar array

Tampa Bay’s Great Bay Distributors will have the largest private solar system in the state at the beverage distributors’ massive new facility under construction just south of the Val-Pak building off of Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg.

Aerial Innovations

Tampa Bay’s Great Bay Distributors will have the largest private solar system in the state at the beverage distributors’ massive new facility under construction just south of the Val-Pak building off of Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg.

Pinellas County's Great Bay Distributors is building the largest private solar system in the state.

The 1.5-megawatt solar array will be part of the beverage distributors' massive new facility under construction just south of the Val-Pak building off Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg. The facility and the array should be ready in February.

The bottom line: The economics work, said Ron Petrini, president of Great Bay, Florida's largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products. The company expects to reduce its electric bill by as much as 40 percent.

"We know that it will be beneficial," Petrini said. "It appears, the numbers work very, very well for this company."

The system, which will cost about $2.6 million, also will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 43,610 tons over its life cycle of 25 to 30 years, the equivalent of planting 1.1 million trees.

"We really thought it was the right thing to do," Petrini added. "We live in Florida. We are building a new building. We knew it was going to have a substantially large roof area. Why not take advantage of the sunshine?"

Great Bay's system will overtake the state's current No. 1 commercial rooftop solar array at Darden Restaurant's headquarters in Orlando. Darden, which runs several chains including the Olive Garden, installed a 1.1-megawatt system just over two years ago. Darden said the system would allow its facility to go off the grid for the equivalent of two months a year.

Ikea is set to open stores with rooftop solar arrays, including a South Florida operation with a 1.18-megawatt system this summer that will edge out Darden but fall short of Great Bay's project.

Great Bay "will be the top dog," said Scott McIntyre, whose firm Solar Energy Management won the contract. "It's good news."

The installed cost of the system will run about $1.73 a watt and should pay for itself in about 6.3 years, McIntyre said. The price tag includes a 30 percent federal tax credit. Also, the company saves money by installing the array during construction of a new facility, as opposed to retrofitting an older building.

"With building from scratch, you have an open palette to build around," said Brad Dalbol, director of operations for ARCO/Murray, the contractor for the project. "This is by far the biggest solar project we've done."

Economics is driving a growing number of companies toward solar. The price of the technology has plummeted in recent years, making it more attractive, especially to companies with large facilities and big electric bills.

Polypack, a Pinellas Park manufacturer, installed a solar system last year that is about a fifth of the size of Great Bay's. The system cut Polypack's electric bill from about $4,800 to $212 in March and $300 in April, said Ed James, the company's electrical engineering manager.

"We wanted to do something for the environment, do something green," James said. "But it also has do with the monetary benefit. That's wasted space up there on the roof. It's not making anybody any money. What else are you going to do with it?"

Many state leaders in Tallahassee have not embraced widespread use of solar technology, giving deference instead to the investor-owned utilities, which maintain a firm grip on energy production. The utilities' business model depends on electricity sales. So the more business owners and residential customers install solar on rooftops, the less utilities need to produce and the less money they make.

Florida utilities have complained that rooftop solar disrupts the grid system because it's unpredictable. Clouds, for instance, can roll in, forcing the utility to always have another energy source ready to fire up. And the more businesses and homeowners install rooftop solar, the utilities argue, the more those without such systems will have to pay to maintain the grid.

Nicole LeBeau, a Duke Energy spokeswoman, said the utility supports solar but would not comment on Great Bay's decision to install such a large solar array.

Solar supporters counter that what rooftop solar does is disrupt the utilities' monopoly control over power in Florida, while giving people more choices, in particular as the technology becomes more affordable.

"The solar revolution is underway," said Susan Glickman of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "Solar makes economic sense today."

Jim Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida, asked if solar didn't make economic sense why would major companies invest in it?

"It is amazing that businesses are willing to spend money on something that everyone says costs too much," Fenton said sarcastically. He said the utilities simply are worried about customers buying less electricity. "Your electric bill would be lower and you would send less money to the utility."

Great Bay isn't stopping with solar panels. The building also will include LED lighting and natural gas generators and water heaters.

Although Great Bay will maintain a secondary facility in Holiday, the new 267,787-square-foot facility will become Great Bay's primary place of business. With offices and a warehouse, the new St. Petersburg facility will house 200 of the company's more than 300 workers.

Great Bay, a family-owned company founded in 1968, has become a leading wholesaler in the beer industry. The company distributes six of the top 10 beers in Pinellas, West Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

Petrini said the new facility will enable the company to add more brands and further grow its operation.

"We're terribly excited about it," Petrini said. "We've been located (in Largo) since 1969. We've added onto this facility to the point where there's no more room to add on. Our business continues to be good, very good."

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332.

Great Bay Distributors to top its new building with state's largest private solar array 05/16/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2014 10:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  2. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times

    Business

    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]
  3. The Iron Yard coding academy to close in St. Petersburg

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Iron Yard, a code-writing academy with a location in downtown St. Petersburg, will close for good this summer.

    Instructors (from left) Mark Dewey, Jason Perry, and Gavin Stark greet the audience at The Iron Yard, 260 1st Ave. S, in St. Petersburg during "Demo Day" Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, at The Iron Yard, which is an immersive code school that is part of a trend of trying to address the shortage of programmers.  The academy is closing this summer.  [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  4. Florida's unemployment rate drops for fourth straight month

    Markets

    Unemployment in Florida hit a 10-year low in June, clocking in at 4.1 percent, down from 4.3 percent in May. The state added 19,400 jobs over the month, and saw growth in most industries. But there's one glaring missing piece to the economic recovery puzzle: wage growth.

    Florida's unemployment level dropped to 4.1 percent in June from 4.3 percent in May. |  [Times file photo]
  5. Is sinkhole damage sinking Tampa Bay property values?

    Real Estate

    On a scale of desirability, the house for sale on Whittner Drive in Land O' Lakes would rank fairly low. It's a short sale; it sits on an unstabilized sinkhole and it's within a few miles of two houses that collapsed into a gargantuan hole July 14.

    A gated community in Hernando's Spring Hill area, Pristine Place has long been susceptible to sinkholes with nearly a third of its houses with documented sinkhole damage by 2012. Today, however, many houses with repaired sinkhole damage are selling for more than houses without any issues. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times file photo]