A solar world after all

Sometimes the sun shines on everything just right. Fry Roofing has been installing commercial and residential roofing in the San Antonio area for almost 30 years. Chris Fry says the company has been actively installing solar products with various roofing materials for the last two years.

“We learned about it at different trade shows like NRCA,” he says. “It was the new thing, so we went to seminars and learned what we could. Eventually, some local solar contractors contacted us for help on the roof so we learned what we could from them started installing solar ourselves. We brought in an electrician to hook everything up to code and we used our current staff to install.”

Fry Roofing partnered with Advanced Green Technologies of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after attending seminars by AGT’s Yann Brandt. This fall, Fry Roofing completed the installation of AGT’s AmeriBright solar panels on the existing metal roof on its San Antonio office and shop.

“We were lucky,” Fry says. “The building was facing the right way and the roof was at the right angle, so it worked out.”

The AmeriBright crystalline panels are manufactured by Solar Power Industries of Belle Vernon, Pa., just southeast of Pittsburgh. They were installed on the 5-year-old addition to the Fry Roofing offices because the purlins under the metal roofing were close enough together to provide support and easier attachment. (The original 25-year-old part of the metal building was constructed with the purlins spaced a little wider and not suitable for the racking system from Unirac.) The install would have taken less than a week, but the Fry crew was working on it between other jobs, getting to it when it could. The crew had little trouble with the install, attaching the 3-inch standoffs and flashing them like PVC pipe on the roof.

The system generates 90 percent of the electricity used at Fry Roofing. In October 2008, their electric bill was about $225; in October 2009, it was about $40. With rebates and tax credits, Fry says the return on investment will be about four years.

Fry Roofing’s solar returns are showcased on a monitor in the lobby, attracting plenty of attention from visitors. It’s a great sales tool and generated a lot of interest during the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour. Held annually on the first Saturday in October, this educational event provides participants an opportunity to take self-guided tours of homes and buildings to see how their neighbors are using solar energy and energy efficiency to reduce their monthly bills and help tackle climate change. 2008 marked the first year San Antonio participated by featuring 10 homes and buildings. The National Tour boasts 115,000 attendees visiting some 5,000 buildings in 44 states.

Fry says San Antonio, specifically CPS Energy of San Antonio, has become proactive in the promotion of solar, creating a program called Solartricity. According to the Solartricity website, “CPS Energy has embraced solar as part of a long-term transition to distributed generation. Distributed generation refers to the production of electricity by those with solar, wind and other renewable-energy systems scattered throughout the CPS Energy grid. With the addition of this program, CPS Energy can offer solar-energy options for its small, medium and large customers, similar to its successful Windtricity program.”

Essentially, Solartricity producers will be responsible for the cost involved in purchasing, installing and maintaining their own solar-energy systems. Preliminary plans call for Solartricity producers to sign 20-year agreements to sell solar energy at a rate of 27 cents per kilowatt-hour (KWH) to CPS Energy, helping customers attain a quicker return on investment.

Fry expects to use Solartricity as a sales tool with his office as a model.

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