For over half a century, Otten Bros. Garden Center and Landscaping has been harnessing the power of the sun to grow plants and create beautiful spaces. With this history, it seemed like a natural step to use sunlight to power their business, and the Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program through Saint Paul Port Authority made it easy to pay for the installation.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a new way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to the buildings of commercial property owners in cities and counties that allow it. Energy-saving measures pursued by the owners receive project financing and are repaid as a separate item on their property tax assessment for a set period. PACE eliminates the burden of upfront costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing.
We spoke with John O’Reilly, Vice President of Operations for Otten Bros., about the organization’s solar installation and participation in PACE.
What motivated you to apply for PACE financing through the Saint Paul Port Authority?
PACE was recommended by the company installing the solar panels. We thought that that it would be a good way to fund our solar installation. More broadly, we’re a green industry to begin with, as a landscaper and plant growing company, so we try to be as environmentally friendly as we can. Additionally, there are a lot of good incentive programs right now, both at the state and federal level, to encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency investments.
How was the experience of going through the funding process?
It was really easy. Our accountant handled it, and I believe it was less than 45 minutes of work to fill out the forms for PACE funding. This was the easiest incentive program that we have ever used.
What will the project entail?
We’re installing a ground-mounted, 40 kW solar array behind our main building. The system will offset roughly 80 to 95 percent of our power. We hope that customers will see it, and that it will bring in prospective clients while helping people realize that such projects are possible at their own homes and businesses.
Would you recommend this to other businesses/property owners?
Oh yeah, I would think PACE is a key ingredient for making projects like this possible. It’s a huge deal.