Metcalf West Gets Serious About Solar Energy

Oahu, Hawaii--Metcalf West, a commercial, affordable housing and residential builder based out of Oahu, recently installed solar panels at its headquarters in the Kohanaiki Industrial area.

Oahu, Hawaii–Metcalf West, a commercial, affordable housing and residential builder based out of Oahu, recently installed solar panels at its headquarters in the Kohanaiki Industrial area. The provider of the solar gear they are choosing to use is Skyline Solar, a Bay Area start-up. Metcalf is looking to integrate Skyline’s system in its future projects in Hawaii and on some of its mainland projects.

“In addition, we are working on three more projects—solar farms in the Mohawi desert in California,” Terry Metcalf of Metcalf West tells MHN. “We have come up with an elevated installation, about 10 by 12 feet in the parking lot, so that you don’t lose parking and can use the space below for any other storage as well. Metcalf unveiled the system earlier this week and the Governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle was in attendance as well.

Skyline Solar’s technology, known as High Gain Solar, uses proven, field-tested technologies that have been in use for decades. The system combines tracking, reflective racks and cooling to reduce costs while increasing energy production. This system was particularly appealing to Metcalf because of the reliable technology, but also because the system is highly upgradable – Metcalf can add newer, more efficient solar modules without replacing the entire system. This extends the life of the system, and “future-proofs” the investment, as researchers continue to reach new efficiencies in solar cells.

Skyline Solar’s panels use 8 by 20 ft. panels that contain 1/10th the silicone that normal panels would use. “This means our panels can make more electricity with less,” says Tim Keating, VP of marketing and field operations. “Most others use flat solar panels but ours moves and follows the sun to make the most of sunlight.” The more intense the sun and clearer the air, the more energy the Skyline’s product produces.

So why are developers looking at solar energy as a way to power their aspects of their buildings?

“The federal government has a grant in place which represents 30 percent of system installation cost and there are 35 percent tax credits by the state of Hawaii,” says Pete Anderson, head of solar projects at Metcalf West. “And if you don’t have that kind of exposure, there is a 24 percent grant. The rate of electricity is outrageous in Hawaii so you can get up to a 25 percent return on your investment.”

Keating adds, “Everybody has an objective to lower the cost of building multifamily and here’s an opportunity to lower operating costs.”

Metcalf adds, “Solar energy is the future. The economy has changed and housing has come to screeching halt but the renewable energy field is expanding. We are in a perfect storm: with tax credits and the oil spill etc, there is more pressure and most states have goals to hit a certain amount of renewable energy by a certain date. The environment is conducive for that.”