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A Quarry with a Solar System

Santa Rosa, Calif.-based BoDean Co.’s Mark West Quarry will make history on May 11 when they “flip the switch” and become the first quarry in the world to be 100 percent reliant on solar power.

The Mark West Quarry photovoltaic system will be capable of generating 1,165,000 kWh of green energy per year.  The electricity produced by the solar panels (right) will offset the release of 1,844,521 lbs. of carbon dioxide annually, which is enough energy to power 160 typical American homes for a full year.

BoDean Co. owners, Belinda and Dean Soiland, have made the BoDean Co. an industry leader in sustainability and eco-friendly mining operations. In addition to the use of solar, the company is also dedicated to the extensive use of recycled materials in its production process, as well as actively pursuing a managed reclamation plan that coincides with quarry operations.

According to BoDean Co. General Manager Bill Williams, there are six reasons the company chose to embrace solar power.
  • It makes economic sense. Because of the federal grant program, the company is able to finance the system so that payments are equal to what they have been historically paying the utility.
  • They recognized that they would see an immediate improvement with cash flow because of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) rebates over the next five years.
  • Tax depreciation associated with the equipment brings about a reduction in quarterly estimated  taxes.
  • Energy costs continue to rise. In seven years, the system will have paid for itself at which time its
  • energy will be free and clear.
  • It is the right thing to do. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to crush, screen, wash and
  • convey the rock product the company produces each day. Most of America’s electrical need is met by burning fossil fuels. By using the sun’s rays, they are using a sustainable source that is clean.
  • As a company, they are committed to sustainability and eco-efficiency.

Project Planning
Going to a solar-powered system took a lot of strategic planning and transition time. “We put the project out for bid in June 2010,” Williams said. “The actual construction began in late November 2010. Therefore from start to finish the project has taken approximately 10 months with 5 months of construction time.”

The vision for this project was actually in the works years earlier. “Our vision for this project began in 2006 when we installed solar panels at our main office in Santa Rosa,” Williams said. Like many things, it started with a comment that seemed crazy at the time. If we had to do it all over again, we would not have waited. It does not seem crazy today.”

Even with the best idea and careful planning, the project had its challenges. From a philosophical standpoint, they had to demonstrate to everyone on the management team that such a system would pay for itself and make economic sense.

“From a logistical standpoint regarding construction, the panels needed to be placed upon a steeply graded hillside,” Williams said. “To our knowledge, solar panels had never been placed upon a hillside as we were proposing. How were we going to place the piers for the racking system under such conditions?  And how much was that going to cost?”

Through the bid process, they discovered a company that developed a racking system that would fit their environment by using a screw mounting system. Problem solved.

Going solar not only made business sense, it fit into the company’s mission. “It is our desire to operate in an eco-efficient manner that is dedicated to sustainability,” Williams said. “It does not make sense for us to continue to use fossil fuels to do this when we have the best energy source at our fingertips: the sun.”