A “Net Positive” Solar Milestone at Iron Mountain:

Kimberly Road building makes more electricity than it used for 3 months in a row.

It was a sunny day in February in East Brunswick, NJ and the solar electric system on the roof of the Kimberly Road Records Storage Building was hard at work.  In fact, it was making so much electricity that the utility meter was spinning backward.  By the end of the day the solar array made more power than the building had used marking the first time an Iron Mountain building was “Net Positive”.  And it wasn’t a fluke, as spring arrived the Kimberly Road building had more Net Positive days and has held that status for the entire months of May, June and July and the summer isn’t over yet.

Since our first system installation in Windsor Connecticut in 2013, solar and other renewable energy sourcing has become an import part of our plans for cutting utility expenses as well as reducing the Greenhouse Gas pollution and other environmental impacts of our energy use. We now have a total of 1.8 MW of solar installations across 6 buildings capable of producing 2.2 million KWhrs per year.  That’s enough electricity to run over 200 average households per year and is an important part of meeting Iron Mountain’s Renewable Energy goal.   Find out more about our company wide energy use and our goals in our latest CR Report

While conventional wisdom says that solar is expensive, we found that a lot depends on understanding the many ways to structure the investment needed to build solar systems.  In 2014 we experimented with many approaches, from owning the system outright as in Franklin, MA to leasing our Brampton, Ontario roof to a 3rd party to install and operate a solar system for their own benefit.  We learned it gets complicated fast, with the money, the “green credit” and the electricity all flowing in different directions some times.  To add to the complexity, there are also a wide variety of local technical requirements and financial incentive programs that together can make your head spin faster than the meter.

Folks from across the organization from Legal, Accounting, Procurement, Global Real Estate, Facilities Management and the Corporate Responsibility team have worked together to learn this new space.  The result is that we now have the experience to consider complex energy options and select the best course of action.  Currently that is to work with 3rd party providers including one of the largest in the industry to craft Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for our facilities.  Under these contracts SunEdison invests the capital to install solar systems on our buildings and we sign a contract for 20 year fixed cost of electricity.  So far the price for solar electricity has been less than the current utility price of power, so we reduce electricity expense from day one – plus we have the security of fixed price for the long haul with no capital cost.

We’re currently in process with another 5 MW of solar on 7 buildings in 4 states plus Australia and we’re working through a process to screen all of our buildings for the best solar and financial solutions.  Starting in 2016, we would like to install about 5 MW of solar every year.  As we add more solar to buildings and keep working to reduce our energy consumption through energy efficiency investments, Kimberly Road’s Net Positive days might have been our first, but they won’t be our last.