Glen Raven to build $2M solar farm at Upstate manufacturing center

Photo: Alan Levine.

[Above photo: Alan Levine, Flickr CC 2.0 License]

Glen Raven Inc. plans to build a $2 million solar farm at its Anderson-based Sunbrella manufacturing center. The 1000-kW project will become the largest solar energy installation in the Upstate owned by a privately held company.

The project is an effort to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

“We are committed to sustaining the communities where we live and work and are invested in seeing them thrive,” said Edmund Gant, sustainable development manager for Glen Raven Custom Fabrics. “Sustainability is a priority for our employees.”

Built in 1994, the North Carolina-based company’s Anderson plant – called Glen Raven Custom Fabrics – is the largest manufacturing center for the Sunbrella brand of fabrics for awning, marine and upholstery applications, and employs more than 700 people.

The company currently receives natural gas and nuclear power from Duke Energy to power its operation.

Earlier this year, Glen Raven partnered with Hannah Solar, a Georgia-based solar tech company, for the project. In two weeks, Hannah Solar will install 3,225 solar panels on five acres adjacent to the facility. The installation will be completed sometime in January.

The solar farm is going to offset 317 tons of carbon emissions annually – the equivalent of planting 2,500 tree seedlings annually – and can supply energy to about 105 homes, according to Gant.

In the U.S., carbon dioxide accounts for 82 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions, which can cause multiple health issues such as asthma and heart attacks. But many companies are adopting clean energy sources such as solar. These sources reduce the use of power plants, which account for 31 percent of U.S. emissions, according to the EPA.

The company declined to share its current energy usage.

The solar farm isn’t the first sustainable practice employed by the company. Glen Raven doesn’t dispose of its waste at landfills. Instead, it contracts with Wellford-based Leigh Fibers, which processes and trades recyclable fibers.

The company also has a $3 million solar farm on the roof of its 175,000-square-foot plant in Norlina, N.C. Since 2011, the 500-kW solar farm has generated the power equivalent of 233,541 gallons of gas and 16,457 60-watt light bulbs, according to Randy Blackston, vice president of operations at Glen Raven Custom Fabrics.

He added that Glen Raven Custom Fabrics couldn’t add a rooftop solar farm because the 1 million-square-foot manufacturing center couldn’t sustain its weight. But the company has made sure to use sustainable practices to prepare the five acres of land for the large solar installation.

“A lot of the trees were infested with pine beetles, which are a big pest here in the Upstate region,” said Gant. “We cut those down and mulched them for our nature trail. The healthy trees were carefully relocated across the property.”

The company is building the solar farm through the Duke Energy Solar Rebate Program, which offers a rebate of $1 per watt of installed generating capacity direct current. Glen Raven estimates that it will receive a payback in less than five years.

The solar farm could spur more sustainable practices at the company.

“Any green energy options are worth exploring,” said Gant. “We’ll always be open to the idea. We’ve always been an industry leader in being green. If these panels are successful, we’d be open to the idea of expanding further in solar.”

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