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'Skybreaking' Celebrates Charlottesville Business Now Using Solar Panels

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Roof of Indoor Biotechnologies (Photo courtesy Sigora Solar) Roof of Indoor Biotechnologies (Photo courtesy Sigora Solar)
Martin Chapman Martin Chapman
Lesley Fore Lesley Fore
Mike Signer Mike Signer
John Proffitt John Proffitt
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Charlottesville is relaunching its commitment to clean energy and reducing the city's greenhouse gas emission.

City leaders gathered at the historic Silk Mills building on Harris Street Monday, January 8, to celebrate a Charlottesville businesses' new solar energy system. Instead of a groundbreaking, Indoor Biotechnologies hosted a "skybreaking" ceremony to celebrate its new ability to harness the sun for energy.

"What it will enable us to do is reduce our energy bills by 50 percent," said CEO of Indoor Biotechnologies Martin Chapman.

Indoor Biotechnologies will not only save money with the 450 new solar panels on its roof, but it will also by be able to self-produce 50-percent of its energy needs.

“It’s going to be sustainable energy, and it’s going to be here for the next 25 years. So it’s a really sound investment," Chapman said.

The company took advantage of the Charlottesville Clean Energy Commercial Loan Program [PDF], which is part of the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) to fund this solar project.

“If a business like Indoor Biotechnologies - where we are today - is interested in making improvements or adding a solar system as they did here, they can take out a loan through a financial institution and what LEAP does is pay the interest on that loan," said LEAP Executive Director Lesley Fore.

City Council gave LEAP $500,000 in 2011 to fund the program. Because of the city's partnership with Pioneer Bank, LEAP is able to pay down the interest rate on the loan to as low as 0 percent.

"This is very exciting. This is an example of government and the private sector and also the UVA Community Credit Union working together to bring innovation sustainability," Charlottesville City Councilor Mike Signer said.

Sigora Solar, Virginia's largest solar installation company, said it's seen an increase in residential and commercial solar use over the last few years because of financial incentives, like the Charlottesville's Solar Tax Credit, which will pay credit on a real estate tax bill for 5 years.

"That makes it just a no brainer for city businesses to consider," said John Proffitt with Sigora Solar.

Signer is hoping other companies will follow Indoor Biotechnologies’ lead.

"Now that this is up and running, the hope is that many more companies who have rooftops and want to decrease their energy costs and want to have cleaner energy look at this and say, 'I want to work with the city,'" he said.

LEAP said Charlottesville coffee roaster Shenandoah Joe is now in the process of using solar power.

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