Wilsonart boosts its local facility with solar power


Tim O’Brien and Jim Hartzfeld

This is the first of Wilsonart’s 13 production facilities to augment its power with solar, starting this new year, Wilsonart Pres. and CEO Tim O’Brien told The Tribune after the ribbon-cutting on Earth Day April 22.

“We’re excited about this big installation. It gives us much more energy sustainability,” O’Brien said. “We’ll save on our energy costs for the next 20 to 30 years” before having to update the system. He told the crowd that solar is an innovative way of attaining greater “competitiveness globally. We also make it a cleaner and greener environment, in our community.”

There are 1,620 ground panels and 1,296 more on the roof. The 2,916 panels power 5.3 percent of the facility, said Dakin Spain of Atlanta-based Radiance Solar which installed the system. It includes 27 inverters.

That power savings adds up, over time. The monthly Duke Energy bill for the rest of the electricity is lowered, along with its average usage and peak demand, noted project coordinator Jim Hartzfeld. Also, Wilsonart qualifies for a state solar tax credit.

The solar panels each produce 305 watts, yielding a total capacity of 889 kilowatts (kW) which could fully power about 100 homes, O’Brien stated. Each kilowatt is 1000 watts. Spain added that the solar power lasts 1.25 million kilowatt hours per year, which equals 1.25 gigawatt hours (GWh). This is medium-sized industrial solar output, said Hartzfeld. He has handled 180 projects in seven states.

Wilsonart, a leading countertop and wall-surfacing manufacturer, employs about 550 of its 4,500 workers in Fletcher Business Park. They make laminate. Dozens of plant and corporate officials and assembly workers were on hand for the ribbon cutting. Quartz is among the firm’s newest surfacing products.

Facilities are in 12 states, and Toronto, Ont., Can. The local plant began in 1978. Ralph Wilson, Sr. started the company in 1956, as Ralph Wilson Plastics. Headquarters are in Austin, Texas. Brands include Wilsonart, Durcan, Ralph Wilson, Resopal from Germany, Polyrey in France, and Arborite in Canada. Products are distributed in more than 90 countries.

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