solar panels in winter

The Road to Solar Power

Thysse’s solar panels are live.

One glance at our new facility and it’s apparent that we’re invested in solar for the long haul. The panels take up the majority of our production facility’s rooftop, and glimmer with the slightest hint of sunlight. The spectacular team at Arch Electric helped us get them up and running in the fall, and we couldn’t be happier with the result. The layout, track install, and fastening of the panels took about 7 weeks, and as of November 24, 2020, the panels were live and Thysse began officially drawing solar power from our own grid.

See more in our joint press release here.

But let’s take a step back and walk through what it took to get to this point. Interest in creating a more sustainable building, including solar panels, has been a part of the vision for this campus from the beginning. As various components of the project came together, it was not a question of “if” solar would be installed, but “when?” and “how?” especially as COVID turned many plans around. When we moved into the building in late July, it was unknown when we would be able to implement them into the roof of the structure.

To plan accordingly and install solar properly, Thysse needed multiple partners in the renewable energy industry. In mid 2019, Thysse began working with Legacy Solar Cooperative to find a way to replace some of our conventional energy with clean power. Legacy Solar Cooperative is a Wisconsin-based co-op that provides solar products/services. The co-op is a natural partner for Thysse in this effort, as their intent is to bring people together to support solar and other clean energy initiatives.

The co-op does not endorse every solar project in Wisconsin, they require that co-op support be reserved for projects that will last a minimum of 40 years, giving dual meaning to the term “sustainable energy.”

In August of 2020, Thysse was notified that the USDA would be awarding us a grant through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The REAP program assists businesses pursuing projects relating to energy audits and renewable energy development by providing grants to fund a portion of the projects. REAP also supports rural and small business by funding purchases and installs of renewable energy systems to make energy efficiency improvements.

With the USDA assistance, Thysse began work with our install partner, Arch Electric, to expand our emphasis on renewable energy by creating an install plan for the approved solar panels. Arch Electric specializes in energy storage solutions, utility solar, commercial/industrial solar and storage, along with operations and maintenance services. The company is considered the largest vertical provider of solar in Wisconsin and its mission is to educate, inspire, and power current and future generations to choose a clean, sustainable form of energy.

Arch Electric installed a whopping 850 panels which are expected to produce approximately 350,000 kWh annually.

The solar panels that have been installed on the roof are defined as by bi-facial, photovoltaic PV panels. These specific panels are considered an innovation in the solar industry, because while they can generate power directly from the sun, they can also generate indirectly from reflected light. This improvement allows panels to produce 10 – 20% more power and helps the panels shed snow faster in the winter, both allowing for increased energy absorption. We can attest to this final fact, as Thysse is still drawing power daily, even in the dead of winter. All of our panels remain clear, while many other rooftops are still covered in about 10” of snow.

We now have a live feed of our daily production and usage over at Solar Edge, and will soon have a direct feed on our site’s (currently-under-construction) sustainability page!

Let’s break down some of that unfamiliar terminology. In the most basic setup, solar panels are installed on a rack system on the roof to have greatest sun exposure potential, and this physical setup is combined with an inverter system to generate electricity for a facility. Depending on the amount of power generated, these panels can offset some or all of the necessary electricity consumption for the building, reducing the reliance on the city grid. During peak sun exposure and production for our facility, we’re covering about half of our energy needs with power drawn from our solar panels. In periods of lower energy usage, our panels are producing more energy than we’re consuming! During periods of non-activity/power usage, like weekends and holidays, our excess power goes back to the city’s grid.

If that sounds like an impressive setup, it is! Put into concrete numbers: our current facility is triple the size of our previous building, the Netherwood location, and uses roughly the same amount of electricity. That’s already cause for celebration, however, the specific solar panel set up at Thysse will produce the clean energy equivalent of planting over 6,500 trees.

That means we’re sequestering over half a million pounds of CO2 every year!

As Thysse has grown, we’ve continued to evolve our machinery and processes to be more efficient and sustainable both for the environment and for the longevity of the business. The panels are a critical step toward offsetting our emissions footprint and producing our own clean power continue the Thysse legacy of innovation and focus on our people.