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Sprague Launches Venture to Install Solar Panels Atop Storage Tanks

After installing thin, lightweight solar panels atop a petroleum storage tank at a terminal in South Portland, Maine, Sprague Operating Resources and Pictricity plan to install solar panels on tanks at other Sprague terminals, the companies said. Sprague has more than 20 refined products and materials handling locations in the Northeast.

Picktricity, a Massachusetts-based installer of thin-film solar panels, originally approached Sprague to apply the adhesive solar panels to a Sprague tank in 2017.

Kevin Maloney, CEO of Picktricity, and David Glendon, CEO and president of Sprague, hold one of the solar panels applied to Sprague’s South Portland, Maine, terminal tank. Photo courtesy of Sprague Operating Resources.

The panels are thin, durable, flexible and lightweight, and are closer in size and weight to an all-weather floor mat than to traditional heavy solar panels. Weighing in at under five pounds for a 4-foot by 4-foot section, the panels can be directly applied to flat surfaces, unlike traditional solar panels, which require racks and bolts that add weight.

Sprague agreed to a pilot program, and after the panels were installed last August, quickly saw positive results. “We put the panels on a typical storage tank to see if we could use our existing assets to generate energy savings while enhancing our sustainability efforts,” said Jay Leduc, Sprague’s director of sustainability.

“Our first objective is to offset energy usage, and then over time we would look to generate enough power to sell back to the grid,” Leduc told Fuel Oil News.

Utility company Central Maine Power projects that the first installation will generate approximately 110 KWH per year, about 10% of the terminal’s annual electricity demand, Leduc said. “With the pilot project generating annual savings, we are excited to roll this out on many more of our tanks and take advantage of greater savings and possible revenue generation,” Leduc said.

“We’re looking to put them on tanks in Massachusetts and New York because it’s much more favorable in those states to do renewable power,” Leduc said. “You get better tax incentives and renewable energy credits.”

After realizing the benefits at its own terminal and recognizing the opportunity to help expand sustainability efforts across the industry, Sprague began partnership talks with Picktricity to expand the use of the technology not only on its own storage tanks, but also to offer the solution to other terminal operators throughout the United States.

“Sprague is pleased to develop a partnership focused on renewable energy,” said David Glendon, president and chief executive officer at Sprague. “The flexible solar panels are an excellent way for us to expand our sustainability efforts while leveraging our existing infrastructure.”

With deep industry knowledge and experience installing the strips on a variety of flat surfaces, Sprague and Picktricity said, they are well-positioned to help terminal owners choose locations where the flexible thin-film product will have the most impact.

“Many of the options available allow terminal owners to receive power savings and environmental benefits without the requirement of capital investment,” Glendon said.

Kevin Maloney, founder and chief executive officer of Picktricity, said, “We’re excited to collaborate to bring great opportunities for sustainability and electricity cost savings to the energy industry and beyond.”

Sprague Resources LP, Portsmouth, N.H., parent company of Sprague Operating Resources, is engaged in the purchase, storage, distribution and sale of refined petroleum products and natural gas. The company also provides storage and handling services for a broad range of materials. More information about Sprague can be found at www.spragueenergy.com.

Picktricity LLC is a solar consulting firm specializing in thin-film solar installations. The company provides consulting services related to solar installation, tax credits, ordinance and permit requirements, and offers engineering recommendations to optimize solar installation value. Learn more about Picktricity at www.picktricity.com

 

A version of this article, based on a news release and additional reporting by Stephen Bennett, appears in the April 2019 issue of Fuel Oil News.

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