Packaging plant invests in solar

By Reggie Ellis

The largest private photovoltaic system in North America just came to Exeter.

Peninsula Packaging, LLC is planning a 1,170-kilowatt solar electric system to serve its plastics manufacturing process. The project, which amounts to about 10 acres of solar panels adjacent to the plant, will supply 30% of the company's electric needs.

Co-owner Ed Byrne said the $8.3 million investment is to provide a non-polluting, energy independent strategy.

&#8220It was less of a business move and more of a corporate citizen endeaver,” Byrne said. &#8220This company is a believer in conservation.”

San Francisco-based PowerLight Corporation, the nations leading provider of commercial scale photovoltaic systems, will install the photovoltaic system. The project is a ground-mounted tracking system. According to PowerLight, the system is the equivalent of conserving 122,000 barrels of oil, saves 29 million pounds of carbon dioxide and planting 4,200 trees. Other conservation efforts by the company include using recycled plastic and motion-sensor lighting throughout the manufacturing plant. Most of the raw plastic materials are also delivered on rail to its plant on Anderson Road, which takes heavy-polluting trucks off the road.

&#8220Conservation is a conscious effort but we don't wear it on our sleeves,” Byrne said.

Utility incentives and tax benefits will offset some portion of the project costs. Most of the cost is being financed by Citizens Bank of Philadelphia. Byrne said the power created by the system will also be placed back on Southern Calfiornia Edison's power grid. The system represents 1% of the state's photovoltaic power.

&#8220Peninsula Packaging's investment in solar power not only makes good business sense, but it promotes forward-thinking energy policy,” said Supervisor Allen Ishida, a supporter of the project.

Peninsula, a privately held company that incorporated in 2002, takes in palette shipments of beaded and shredded plastic. The plastic is then melted down to a liquid and then cooled into sheets of plastic. The sheets are then cut and stamped with different designs of plastic packaging for produce, bakery, airline feeding, and foodservice markets, with containers ultimately finding their way to nearly every supermarket chain in the U.S.

Peninsula moved into a vacant 350,000-square-foot facility on Anderson Road in Exeter in October 2002, locating in the area because of the base of skilled workers, many with experience in plastic extrusion and thermoforming. They have grown from eight to 210 employees. The company produces about 600 million packages per year.

&#8220The positive business climate made the decision to locate the plant in Tulare County very easy,” Byrne said. &#8220The movement of our facility into the Economic Development Zone is just another indication of the great attitude that Tulare County has toward employers.”

County of Tulare and the Economic Development Corporation worked together to add Peninsula and neighbor Tri-Wall to the Business Incentive Zone (BIZ). On June 6 the Board of Supervisors gave their final approval. Both companies will take advantage of the incentives to expand their businesses. Byrne said the company will be expanding into plastic containers in non-food areas,which should create an additional 100 jobs for the area.

&#8220It's hard to say exactly when it will all happen but the new equipment has been ordered,” Byrne said.

The BIZ area provides state tax credits for hiring and equipment investment to manufacturing, transportation, distribution and wholesale companies. See www.edctulare.com for more details about incentives.

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