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GSK Installs PV with PA Grant

GlaxoSmithKline might be hoping the sun will put a silver lining on dark clouds over its Consumer Healthcare division -- and power its distribution facility in York, PA.

GSK drug facility photo on EnergyPriorities.com

Mounting rails, under partly cloudy skies, stand ready to accept 11,000 PV modules. Each one weighs about 60 pounds and is more than six feet long and more than three feet wide. The panels are installed in a grid system in sets of three. Nearly 100 workers will spend the next two months hoisting the panels to the roof with a crane, securing them into place and networking them into the power system.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare begins installing North America’s largest rooftop solar array at its Northeast Regional Distribution Center today.

GSK says it received government funding and solar incentives to help finance the project. A $1 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Financing Authority and $4.1 million in federal tax credits will help pay for the project. GSK will also utilize energy savings and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC) to offset costs.

Nearly 11,000 solar panels will cover an area on the roof which is about the size of seven American football fields. The solar panels will generate enough electricity to meet the annual energy needs of the nearly 500,000 square foot building. That’s equivalent to the power needed each year for almost 400 average sized homes.

The 3-megawatt system is expected to generate approximately 3.4 million kilowatt hours of energy per year. This will enable the facility to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3,000 tons annually. It would take nearly 15,000 trees to absorb that much carbon dioxide in a single year. American Capital Energy, the company responsible for the project, plans to install about 500 panels per day. When the project is completed, it will be the first time a GSK facility anywhere in the world will be completely reliant on solar energy.

GSK’s sustainability initiatives were lauded recently in Newsweek’s 2010 Global Green Ranking as ranking fifth among the greenest companies in the world (although the company did not make the magazine's U.S. rankings). Since 2007, the company has been implementing a climate change program to reduce emissions and energy use in operations and transport. GSK aims to reduce energy use by 45 percent by 2015, compared to 2006 levels.

A rooftop gathering this morning will mark the installation of the first module. Forecast: sunshine.

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK)