Window Manufacturer Harnesses the Sun for Plant’s Electricity

January 31st, 2012 by DWM Magazine

Viwinco now gets 40 percent of its electricity from the solar far adjacent to its plant.

At the Viwinco plant in Morgantown, Pa., the company focuses on keeping most of its own manufacturing processes in house—including tempering and laminating. That translates into very high electric bills, according to company president David Barnes. So when Barnes was approached about generating 40 percent of its electricity from a portion of the solar farm adjacent to its manufacturing facility it was an easy decision.

“We bought our property from a builder that does a lot of commercial work and he got into the solar business so he could use the sun’s energy to power his own buildings, and he received some state money to do this,” explains Barnes. “He decided to put in a solar farm and he wanted to do it in three phases and he needed someone to buy the electricity. He was trying to create an advantage for us to buy electricity at a reduced rate.”

The 2 megawatt farm has 7, 916 panels that cover 10 acres of land and produces enough electricity to power 300 houses annually.

“You can request to buy green energy but I didn’t have to do that because it comes right to the electric box,” says Barnes. “It was a no brainer: I was in.”

The plant went live last fall with its solar power. Barnes, who prides himself on controlling as many processes as he can in his plant, has just one complaint about the arrangement.

“If I had the money I would have put my own farm in but it’s a very expensive proposition,” he says. “I would love to have the whole field.”

He adds that down the road he would love to install a solar roof. And although he professes, “I’m a window guy and I don’t know everything about all that environmental stuff,” he knows enough.

“I believe in the environmental responsibility we have both personally and in business,” he says.

And when business was slow for all window companies, “we had a chance to look at some things. We looked at ways to cut and reduce and improve.”

Some of these improvements had to do with plant lighting.

“The original building was built in 1988 and we changed all the lighting recently from metal alloy to bulbs that last twice as long,” he says.

Finally, with all this environmental talk, Barnes takes the time to wax poetic about some interesting ironies.

“Here we are as a society where we can get the benefits of the sun, but then the windows we manufacture are trying to block the harmful rays of the sun,” he says. “It is embarrassing as a society when we have to wait until the government has to step in to make us do some of these things.”

He adds that it doesn’t always come down to the bottom line.

“It’s not all about the last nickel,” he says. “It’s about doing what’s right and being better than the next guy.”

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