The SunPower system will supply about 50 percent of the energy needed at one of the campus’s three main buildings—the firehouse.
“We have an existing solar system in the parking lot, 69 kilowatts,” said Elissa Loughman, who works on Patagonia’s environmental group. “It’s like a carport structure.”
That installation, made in 2005, supplies about 70 percent of the power needed at one of the campus’s biggest buildings, Loughman said.
While the campus has three large buildings, it’s also scattered with several other smaller buildings, Loughman said.
“We still use a lot of power,” she said. “We wanted to have some control over where that power comes from and how much it costs.”
That wasn’t the only reason the company decided to invest in a second solar array.
Patagonia is named for the glacier-covered Andes region at the southern tip of Argentina and Chile. Its reputation is wrapped around outdoor sports and winter activities. The company’s loyal customers and biggest supporters tend to be more environmentally aware.
And Patagonia tries to be aware, as well. It’s not every company that has an environmental department these days.
“We’re aware that solar is an emerging technology,” Loughman said. “And we want to be supportive of it while also reducing the amount of power we pull from the grid.”
Patagonia invited three solar companies to evaluate two of the biggest rooftops at the facility. The childcare facility didn’t have quite as much capacity as the firehouse, Loughman said. And it was more shaded by trees.
“We like our trees around here,” she said. “We didn’t want to be cutting any of the trees down.”
The firehouse itself was a good option for solar. It’s an energy-efficient replica of a turn-of-the-century building that stood just where it’s currently located. The only major retrofit Patagonia had to complete before installing the new array was a new roof, Loughman said.
Installation of the company’s new 27-kilowatt system went quickly. It covers almost the entire roof with a few walkways between the panels, which were required for emergency access, Loughman said.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s so great to see it finished.”