SBDC speaker: Going green can pay off for businesses

Caption: Clayton Lane, center, of James Lane Air Conditioning, oversees the installation of a solar energy system atop the business in 2010. Lane reported on the savings of that and other efficiency upgrades during a Back to Business Wednesday program at MSU.

SBDC speaker: Going green can pay off for businesses

The problem from a financial standpoint is that they could have bought that water from the city for $254, Lane said. “Was it worth it? No, not when it cost $3,000 to install,” he said. “It was worth it for the environment.”

Still, he estimates, when the indirect potable reuse system is fully implemented by the city, James Lane will be a net water contributor to the city water supply, flushing more of its reclaimed water into the system than it takes out of the potable water supply.

The financial gain was far different with the company’s large solar panel project on the south-facing part of their rooftop, where their investment was recouped in just three years. Installing the system cost $240,000 in 2010, but once they added in a grant from Oncor, a federal tax credit and the accelerated depreciation allowance available with the project, the direct cost had plummeted to $50,000. Costs for panels have fallen substantially since then, Lane said, but so have incentives. In the end, the math is about the same.

Electric costs were also attacked by upgrading the company’s light fixtures to newer bulb and ballast types and using a device called a Killawatt, purchased on Amazon, to look at the energy use of things like refrigerators, ice machines and specialty machinery. The old ice machine, Lane said, turned out to be costing the company $1,000 a year, about the cost of an energy efficient new model. The ice machine was quickly replaced.

The company’s electric bill has fallen from $1,000 a month to $200, with much of the improvement coming from the excess electricity they sell back to the electric provider. Additional savings have come from using occupancy sensors in offices, turning air conditioning off on weekends and upgrading thermostats.

“I’d like to get to the point where we’re completely neutral,” Lane said. “Solar, AC and lighting are the three easy ones. Insulation is another one, even for homeowners – simple, blown-in insulation.”

Lane suggested that the Energy Star website ( can give businesses a better idea of where they stand on energy efficiency, and offer suggestions about what to attack first. The website also offers advice for homeowners.