Tuffy Bennett was talking overhead, and it had nothing to do with operating costs at GreeneTech Manufacturing.
“We probably have 20,000 pounds of weight on our roof,” said Bennett, supervisor of the steel fabricating firm off Crile Road in South Strabane Township.
That is 10 tons, about eight of which were added this spring in a project devoted to letting the sun shine in.
Committed to putting the green in GreeneTech, the company hired Pennsylvania Solar Energy Co. to install photovoltaic solar panels on its sturdy roof – 470 of them, roughly 16,000 pounds’ worth. This followed a complete conversion to LED lighting at the plant, which also recycles.
GreeneTech went live with its solar array June 14, establishing itself as a local pioneer. It is the first Washington County business with rooftop solar to completely offset its energy consumption through that renewable.
Bill Reedy assures that is the case. He is the owner of Pennsylvania Solar, a North Strabane Township-based company that serves residential, commercial and industrial customers – and utilities – across the tri-state. The man’s fingers are firmly on the region’s solar pulse.
Installation was a bit pricey – $434,750, according to Bennett. But this was a large project; Pennsylvania Solar’s typical volume installation is 100 to 300 panels, and 470 is 57 percent greater than the high end. GreeneTech also was gung ho about solar.
By committing to that resource, the firm not only is fulfilling its green objective, it should reap financial benefits. The federal solar tax credit, which can be applied to residential and commercial properties, enables individuals or companies to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from federal taxes. GreeneTech also could sell electricity to the grid.
Reedy, of Chartiers Township, said the federal government also allows a tax credit for every 1,000 kilowatts of energy produced. Bennett said annual energy production at his plant has been estimated at 249,570 kilowatt hours per year.
Even more significant, though, is the projected utility savings of $949,986.49 over 25 years. (GreeneTech’s system has a 25-year manufacturer’s warranty.)
The solar initiative gained momentum last fall, Daniele Levine said last week. Levine, a Peters Township resident, is a mechanical engineer with the company, and a daughter of the founder, Dan Levine.
Her father launched GreeneTech in 1997, as a scrapyard in Waynesburg. The firm grew over the next seven years before the ravages of Hurricane Ivan essentially forced a relocation to its current site – about a mile outside the city of Washington.
Pennsylvania Solar began installation in February, but contrary weather extended the duration of the project to four months. A more jarring development occurred in the meantime.
In March, the day before his 65th birthday, Dan Levine died of a heart attack. His sudden demise devastated his family, including two daughters, three brothers and two sisters; devastated the company he fostered; and devastated Bennett, who worked closely with the boss.
“We were extremely close,” said Judy Levine Clark, Dan’s sister. “This was an unbelievable shock.”
Her husband, Tom, who had retired from a full-time job, is now working two days a week at GreeneTech. He is, essentially, the chief financial officer. It is a long-distance commute, as the Clarks reside in Murrysville.
One of Dan Levine’s legacies is a small but strong-as-steel company, located off North Main Street near Frazier-Simplex Machine Co. GreeneTech provides fabrication, machining and assembly work for customers in a number of industries: water transfer, gas, mining, power generation and steel. Marathon Petroleum Corp., parent of MarkWest Energy Partners, is one of the firm’s top clients.
“We bend metal, shape metal and cut metal,” Bennett said, adding that GreeneTech has a state-of-the-art fabric shop and provides heavy conventional machining capabilities.
His company has a smallish workforce of 25 to 30, but has doubled the size of the plant to 24,000 square feet in the 15 years since taking over a space previously occupied by Daco Machine. A quick tour of the site Monday showed the workspaces are comfortable, not cramped, and generally quiet.
“It’s a very well run facility, a very clean facility,” said Tom Clark. “It’s a caring organization, one that puts employees and their safety ahead of everything.”
Bennett, of Scenery Hill, is a seven-year employee who generally works 4 a.m. to 4 p.m., but is content with that. He has worked in industry for nearly 40 years, including three decades with a Carnegie firm that no longer exists.
“We do pretty well for a little bunch. We’re in business to have happy customers,” Bennett said, displaying a sunny disposition in an even sunnier environment.