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Insurer Installs Solar Panels on Roof

BUFFALO, NY – Merchants Mutual Insurance Co. has become one of the first companies in downtown Buffalo to install electricity generating solar panels on its roof.

The Buffalo-based home and auto insurer last week put in a roof-top solar energy system on its corporate headquarters building at 250 Main Street. Installation of 150 solar panels began Aug. 5.
Officials expect the 31,500-watt solar electric generating system to be operational in a few weeks, following system testing and after the company obtains necessary state approvals. Merchants expects to use all of the energy generated by the panels for its operations.The insurer said it expects to reduce its carbon footprint over the 25-year life span of the system by eliminating495 tons of carbon dioxide.That’s the equivalent of driving more than 900,000 miles in a medium-sized car, or flying more than 1 million air miles, the company said, citing the Environmental Protection Agency and other sources. It also has the same impact of planting nearly 20,000 trees.The company said it decided to install the environmentally friendly “green” option to help its energy use after recently replacing the roof on its building.

Officials explored several options for alternative systems, and then hired Buffalo-based Solar Liberty, which specializes in renewable energy systems, to design and install the panels.The building has a standard flat roof, and the panels will be installed facing south, at a 30-degree angle, to maximize the absorption of sunlight. That’s designed to generate electricity in both sunny and cloudy conditions, while preventing snow buildup in winter, so that it can produce electricity all year, the company said. The insurer also obtained $119,500 in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, through the state agency’s Solar Electric Incentive program.

This is the third major contract recently for Solar Liberty, which has offices in Buffalo and Syracuse.

The firm also was hired to handle most of the work on a $7.5 million contract to install a solar panel system at University at Buffalo, to power student apartments.It also won a contract to install a solar lighting system in Hanover Town Hall, in Chautauqua County.

Buffalo News
By Jonathan D. Epstein
News Business