Levin installs 1 megawatt solar panel on top of Smithton distribution facility


Robert Levin, president of Levin Furniture, was a fan of solar power long before it could get him tax incentives.

Levin had a solar panel installed in his furniture store in Monroeville in 2004. Almost two years ago, he had solar power installed in his home.

On Wednesday, Levin powered the largest solar panel at a retail site in western Pennsylvania. A 1 megawatt system is expected to generate approximately 70% of the electricity needs of its Smithton distribution facility.

“We’re really trying to do everything we can to focus on sustainability,” Levin said. “We pack and recycle our plastic, and we have a machine that crushes and condenses the styrofoam into bricks that we can pack and sell.”

And while locals in the Pittsburgh area like to joke that the sun goes out in October and comes back in April, “the difference isn’t as dramatic as people think,” said Greg Winks of Solbridge Energy Advisors in Mount Lebanon, who worked with Levin on both the Smithton project and his home solar panel. “You have to review it every year. “

Winks and Sheldon Stutzman, a solar energy consultant at Paradise Energy Solutions just east of Lancaster, said the Pittsburgh area experiences an average of four hours of usable sunshine per day.

“We held a solar workshop in the area a few weeks ago,” Stutzman said. “And even with a light rain falling, we can show people that the network is still producing.”

The solar panel at Levin’s facility in Smithton lasted about two months. Its environmental impact is roughly equivalent to removing 828 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere.

Levin’s lineup is put online in the context of the COP26 climate conference, where the United States and other countries that acceded to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994 discussed ways to fight against global warming.

Sustainability is a big part of this effort, on many fronts.

At the University of Pittsburgh, the Center for Sustainable Business at the Joseph M. Katz School of Business recently received $ 800,000 from the Heinz Endowment to continue helping businesses learn how to leverage investments in sustainability.

“Our mission is to help companies tackle this crucial question of ‘how’ to best integrate sustainability across the organization,” said CB Bhattacharya, HJ Zoffer Chair in Sustainability and of ethics, which runs the center.

The three priorities of the center are to increase the number of companies working towards a 2030 decarbonization goal, to encourage companies to employ a workforce representative of their communities and to increase environmental, social and human knowledge. governance across the region.

Fall behind

Pennsylvania could use the incentives, according to a new report from the Penn Environment Research & Policy Center. The state ranks 23rd in the country for growth in solar power generation since 2011, according to the report released this week.

Winks said neighboring states like New York, New Jersey and Maryland are leading the way in increasing the use of solar energy.

Nationally, the United States produced nearly four times more renewable electricity in 2020 than in 2011. While wind, solar and geothermal power generation continues to grow at the same 15% annual rate , renewable energies could theoretically generate enough electricity to meet the country’s electricity needs by 2035, the report predicts.

Levin said part of the reason he chose to install the solar panel in Smithton was that it had become much more affordable.

“The cost of solar power has really come down, almost 90% over the years,” Levin said. “It’s not an unreasonable investment.

Winks said the quality and longevity of solar panels has also improved over time.

“They can bank on this production at a minimum level for the next 25 years or so,” he said.

This is the fifth solar installation in a Levin installation. “We had great partners on the project and we are delighted with the outcome,” said Levin.

Patrick Varine is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, pvarine@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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