Recent Press Release on Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Company:

Businesses across North America own 40 billion acres of unused roof space, but Lancaster businessman Sam Beiler and national pretzel-maker Auntie Anne’s have found a use for 93,000 square feet of rooftop – as the pad for a 1 million-kilowatt solar plant.

Beiler’s Shadow Lawn Enterprises owns the building housing the Auntie Anne’s production and manufacturing facility in City Line Business Center, Dillerville Road and Manheim Pike, Lancaster. This month, they completed the 3,024-panel plant installed on more than two acres of fallow roof by Advanced Solar Industries, New Holland.

“Up until now, rooftops have been real estate that served two purposes — keeping the sun, rain and wind out of your building, and maybe storing HVAC equipment,” said Shadow Lawn Enterprises Business Manager Andrew Weikert. “Otherwise, it’s empty, unutilized space that’s almost free real estate for producing income.”
The $4.5 million project earned a $137,500 PA Sunshine rebate and 30 percent federal renewable-energy tax credit, but the investment had to make sense “even without the incentives,” said Weikert.

Shadow Lawn Enterprises will maintain the plant and, through a power purchase agreement, sell the power generated to Auntie Anne’s. The project will also earn additional income through the sale of renewable energy credits – the dollars that Pennsylvania electric utilities award to solar generators for lightening the production of fossil-fuel energy.

“While the environmental benefits derived from renewable energy sources are certainly important, projects like this have to align with our business interests,” said Weikert. “With the long-term outlook pointing toward ever-higher energy prices, there’s no question that we’re entering an era when these kinds of investments make business sense. When we crunched the numbers, we were pleased with the projected returns.”
In household terms, a 1 million-kilowatt system generates enough power for 130 homes, said Josh Mitten, Advanced Solar Industries director of sales, marketing and business development. The Dillerville Road plant will generate roughly $150,000 worth of electricity, he said.

“You’re taking a mini-power plant and putting it on top of the building,” Mitten said. “They’re still connected to PPL so they can pull from the grid if it’s rainy or cloudy, but on a monthly basis, Auntie Anne’s will get a discounted rate on electricity generated by the solar plant overhead.”

Shadow Lawn Enterprises sought a local solar contractor and found that ASI had “proven themselves on a number of projects in the area,” said Weikert. ASI chose panels from California-based SunPower, whose panels convert 20 percent of light into power. The industry average is 13 percent.

Compared to ground-mounted systems, roof-mounted are usually more cost-effective because they don’t need expensive racks and utilize otherwise unusable space, said Mitten. The SunPower panels are designed for rubber roofs, he said — lightweight to minimize roof load and the need for additional supports, ballasted to prevent movement, and designed for easy access for maintenance.

Renewable power and conservation give businesses greater control over energy costs and usage, Weikert said. As part of the Dillerville Road project, Auntie Anne’s cut energy use more than 60 percent by upgrading lighting and installing motion detectors to darken unused areas.

“That’s significant,” said Weikert. “You can get a pretty fast return on a lighting system when you save that much power.”

Auntie Anne’s is “committed to finding and implementing business practices that are both practical and environmentally friendly,” said spokesperson Valerie Kinney. “The solar panels serve as another example in which we are able to accomplish this.”

The project resulting from the partnership of ASI, Shadow Lawn, and Auntie Anne’s is “the right thing to do and financially attractive,” said Mitten. “It creates security and stability in energy use over the next 40 years for a nationally recognized, industry-leading business based in Lancaster. This is an exciting venture that points toward the future of solar as a viable energy source for businesses locally and nationwide.”