Local companies say the potential cost savings and financing deals that helped them afford the solar arrays prompted their investments in the technology, The Blade in Toledo reported.
An 84-acre solar array in Salem Township is the largest solar project in northwest Ohio. The $44 million, 12-megawatt solar farm in Wyandot County began producing solar power in May 2010.
The PSEG Wyandot Solar Farm array produces enough megawatt hours of solar energy annually to power 9,000 homes on a sunny day, the newspaper reported.
Glass manufacturer Pilkington North America Inc. in Toledo recently turned to solar power, and Toledo-area Walgreens stores are set to have rooftop solar arrays installed this fall.
New Jersey-based Campbell Soup Co. announced a few months ago that it will construct a 9.8-megawatt solar array at its Napoleon plant by the end of this year. The array is expected to result in about $4 million in energy cost savings over the next 20 years, providing about 15 percent of the plant's power.
Pilkington installed a $1.5 million, 250-kilowatt solar array this year at its research and development facility in Northwood in Wood County. That array was expected to contribute only about 12 percent of the research facility's energy, but sunny weather has enabled it to produce about 190,000 kilowatt hours of power since it began operating in March. That's about 24 percent more power than originally projected.
Cliff Fleener, environmental manager at Pilkington, declined to say how much money the solar project has saved the company, but he said the system has helped smooth out demand, "especially in the summer months when you have air conditioning being used."
Pilkington may add three to five new acres of solar panels to its one-acre array -- a move that could supply up to 50 percent of the facility's energy needs, Fleener said.
Sunny weather helped Metzgers Printing and Mailing of Toledo save about $3,000 a month on energy bills. Metzgers put about 230 kilowatts of solar panels on two of its buildings' roofs late last year, and may install another rooftop array.
"Our customers are excited about it," said company president Joe Metzger. "Our employees are excited about it."
The popularity of commercial solar installations has grown, according to a study released by the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Companies in the United States installed 148 megawatts of solar technology during the first quarter of 2011, an increase of 119 percent from the same period last year. In Ohio, about 9 megawatts of solar panels were installed in the first three months of this year, the association said.
Public entities also are turning to solar power. The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority received a $1 million grant last month to help build a solar-panel array at its headquarters.