Rice

Virnig Manufacturing meets financial, stewardship goals with solar

Plus: LED lighting & electric forklifts

Powering Production

 

For the past three years, family-owned Virnig Manufacturing in Rice, Minnesota has been home to a 500 kW solar array.

The skid-steer attachment manufacturer started considering solar in 2015, when they were approached by a local installation company about the benefits of adding solar to their 70,000 square foot facility. Over the next couple of years, they learned more about solar and explored the potential costs and benefits of an installation on their facility.

According to Bryan Virnig, who spearheaded the project, “prices of panels had continued to drop, so it started making more and more sense.”

 

It needed to make sense financially. Then there’s the added benefit of being able to know that we’re helping. We use a lot of electricity as part of what we do. It feels good to be able to produce a lot of that onsite. It made sense both ways.

Bryan Virnig, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Virnig Manufacturing

What made Virnig decide to invest in solar?

The installation was completed in October 2017. They were able to employ Minnesota businesses to design and install the system, which supplies up to 40% of their electricity needs.

According to Virnig, “The main part of it is financial—it needed to make sense financially. Then there’s the added benefit of being able to know that we’re helping. We use a lot of electricity as part of what we do. It feels good to be able to produce a lot of that onsite. It made sense both ways.” Many of Virnig Manufacturing’s customers enjoy hunting and fishing, so stewardship of natural resources makes sense from that perspective as well. 

To help pay for the upfront costs, they were able to make use of a USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant, which brought the system’s payback period down from 7-8 years to 4.5 years. “The REAP grant really helped with the payback period. It was a no brainer in terms of the financials.” They also made use of tax benefits, including the Investment Tax Credit and accelerated depreciation.

Installing solar at Virnig

Bryan Virnig's suggestions for other businesses that may be considering solar:

  1. Get more than one estimate and make sure you understand what numbers are going into those estimates
  2. Be conservative in your assessment of estimates
  3. As with any major project, be prepared for things to change as you move forward

What other stewardship measures is Virnig taking?

The solar installation is not the only measure that Virnig Manufacturing has put in place. They have had a dual emphasis on financial and environmental responsibility as they have expanded their operations. From LED lighting and electric forklifts in their shop, to native grass plantings around their site, to a new paint system that uses 96% less water, Virnig has been able to reduce their environmental footprint while improving efficiency and product quality.

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