BJ'S WHOLESALE UNIT GOES LIVE WITH SOLAR-POWER PLANT

NATICK, Mass. -- BJ's Wholesale Club here is taking a proactive approach to alternative energy generation by hosting a solar-power plant on the roof of its Conshohocken, Pa., location.The alternative energy source went live in late April with 1,400 solar panels mounted flat on the roof. The panels, which measure about 2 feet by 3 feet, will produce almost 60,000 watts of environmentally friendly electricity

NATICK, Mass. -- BJ's Wholesale Club here is taking a proactive approach to alternative energy generation by hosting a solar-power plant on the roof of its Conshohocken, Pa., location.

The alternative energy source went live in late April with 1,400 solar panels mounted flat on the roof. The panels, which measure about 2 feet by 3 feet, will produce almost 60,000 watts of environmentally friendly electricity each year for the next 20 years.

The energy produced from the facility on BJ's roof could power about 12 to 20 houses annually, according to Richard Andelman, energy systems and utilities manager for BJ's.

The Conshohocken facility is the second solar plant hosted by BJ's and one of the largest "thin-film" panel plants in the United States. A smaller, 60-panel facility is currently located on the roof at a BJ's store in North Dartmouth, Mass.

"It [the solar plant] allows for more green energy to be on the [energy] grid," Andelman told SN. He added that the "green" solar energy is clean, unlike the "brown" energy that is produced at more traditional fossil-fuel power plants.

The solar energy generated from the panels on BJ's roof gets distributed to a common power grid along with the traditional electricity, reducing the reliance on fossil fuel-based energy.

"The point of the project is to drive up production rates for solar panels," Andelman said. He added that although the energy produced from the panels would be distributed into the energy grid for all customers, due to physics, most of the electrons from the solar panels would wind up in BJ's. The panels are tied directly into BJ's power lines, Andelman added.

"It's more looking down the road to the future," he said of the plant's construction, noting that the retailer is environmentally conscious and wants to take an active role in the use of alternative energy and in energy conservation.

Due to the lack of solar facilities in the area, BJ's said, it would not see a reduction in energy costs with solar power.

But the retailer said it believes in the use of solar power, even if there is no immediate dollar savings.

Sun Power Electric, Westborough, Mass., a not-for-profit alternative-energy company, was looking to find a host site for a solar-power plant in the Pennsylvania area and third-party energy retailer Green Mountain Energy, South Burlington, Vt., had interest from its customers in the newly deregulated energy market to purchase solar power.

Green Mountain, which services BJ's energy-generation needs in Pennsylvania, approached the retailer.

The retailer's prior experience with hosting a solar-power plant and a roof that could hold the 1,400 panels made BJ's the final piece in the solar-panel puzzle, according to a source.

As it stands now, Sun Power owns the solar panels on the retailer's roof, Green Mountain purchases the power generated for its customers and BJ's acts as the host site for the plant and is also a solar-power customer.