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FesslerUSA Plant To Add Solar Power Generating System

A $1.6 million loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority to Orwigsburg, Pa.-based knitwear manufacturer FesslerUSA will help fund construction of a $5.4 million 1-megawatt photovoltaic solar power generating system at the company's Deer Lake manufacturing plant.

The loan follows a $1 million grant the company received for the project in late 2008 from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority. The project includes a new roof for the plant and installation of photovoltaic solar panels to generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, with completion expected before the end of 2009.

The company initiated the project in a proactive effort to control costs at the plant, in view of an expected 40-percent jump in industrial electricity rates when state caps on rates are removed Jan. 1, 2010. "Since we use considerable electricity in our manufacturing process, and the clock was ticking, we wanted to evaluate every option to help us maintain our competitiveness in this globally competitive marketplace," said Bonnie Meck, chief sustainability officer, FesslerUSA.

"We soon learned that we were trailblazers," added CEO Walter Meck, referring to a lack of infrastructure in Pennsylvania to support industrial-scale solar power generation. "Europe and a number of states in the USA have made great progress, but Pennsylvania is just learning what it takes to make solar work. A myriad of financial and regulatory challenges presented themselves at every turn in the road."

Meck credited support from state and federal lawmakers, including US 17th District Rep. Tim Holden, D-Pa., and State Sen. Dave Argall, R-29, as well as the Governor's Action Team. The Schuylkill Economic Development Corp. also supported the project.

July/August 2009