October 18, 2011 | last updated May 16, 2012 4:32 pm

Major Solar Project Goes Online In Milford


Clarke, an appliance distribution and warehouse company, has installed more than 2,300 solar units on the roof of its 106,500-square-foot Milford headquarters - enough power to supply the company's entire operations in MetroWest.

Company officials started planning the solar installation about three years ago, and the system finally went online this summer. It produces enough power to offset the electricity usage of 38 average American homes and is expected to produce savings of about $77,000 a year.

The company worked with New Bedford-based Beaumont Solar on the research and installation and qualified for a 30-percent grant from the federal government.

"The primary reason we wanted to do this was absolutely environmental," said Sean Clarke, general manager of the wholesale distribution company and son of the company's founder. "There is a lot of talk about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, but we really wanted to do something about it."

Finding The Right Fit

Clarke is the exclusive distributor of Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances for the New England region. The company has another location in South Norwalk, Conn. At the Milford facility, there is an 80,000-square-foot warehouse, along with a 25,000-square-foot showroom that includes 15 kitchens.

Consumers and installers can visit the showroom to pick out appliances and other features for kitchen and home remodeling projects.

In addition to the showroom, Clarke also has a culinary center and television studio where cooking shows are filmed and cooking classes are offered. The facility is also the studio production home of the public-television cooking show "Simply Ming," featuring chef Ming Tsai of the Wellesley restaurant Blue Ginger.

"We use a lot of electricity," Clarke said.

Because of that fact, the company is environmentally conscious.

"Green is kind of part of the fabric here," he added.

Many of the company's Sub-Zero and Wolf products are energy efficient; the company has a recycling contract with E.L. Harvey & Sons in Westborough and it uses organic materials for the landscaping of its grounds - and no fertilizers.

About three years ago, Clarke and the company's director of finance and IT, Chris Parker, began researching solar installations that could be used at the company's Milford facility.

Clarke said that the process to find the right partner to work with on the project and the right supplier for the solar panels was not necessarily easy.

"Like anything, you have to do your homework," he said.

The company worked with Beaumont Solar of New Bedford and bought solar panels from California-based Solyndra, after which it soon went out of business.

Clarke said he was attracted to Solyndra because the panels are a cylinder shape, which prevents snow from building up on top of the solar panels. In addition, the company painted the roof with a reflective coating, which allows the sun to reach even the bottom of the circular panels to create as much energy as possible.

Since the project has gone online, the company is now eligible to receive a 30-percent grant from the federal government for the cost of installation.

That, along with the decreased electricity costs, will allow the company to pay off the $2-million system within about four years, Parker said.

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