Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan First Century Energy Vice President of Engineering and Construction Pete Corbett and Executive Vice President George Mori give the Gwinnett Daily Post a tour of the solar panel grid located on the roof of an office building managed by CORO Realty Advisors, LLC in Norcross. The solar grid is the largest solar array in Gwinnett County, covering 23,000 square feet.
NORCROSS -- Florida may be the sunshine state, but the folks at First Century Energy think the warm Georgia rays are hard to beat.
The Atlanta-based solar energy developer has lined the rooftop of a large Norcross warehouse with 730 panels to suck up the sunlight. It's the largest project of its kind in Gwinnett County and one of the biggest in Georgia.
Managed by CORO Realty Advisors LLC, the warehouse affords the business an opportunity to invest in a "green" project while generating additional income and property value by selling the harnessed energy to Georgia Power.
"This is an exciting solar project for Gwinnett County and Georgia's real estate community," said George Mori, executive vice president at First Century Energy.
Mori said the project will generate more than 5.4 million kilowatt hours over its 25-year life, equal to powering 20 homes per year, saving about 3 million gallons of water or replacing 1,200 acres of trees.
The project features Suniva solar modules, a company based in Gwinnett County.
Said Bryan Ashley, Suniva's chief marketing officer: "I'm delighted that Suniva's homegrown technology is being used to power Gwinnett County's largest commercial solar array."
CORO spent about $700,000 for installation of the panels, according to John Lundeen, president of the real estate company.
He said that the state provided some grant money to help offset the costs of mounting the panels on the warehouse roof.
"It's like anything," Lundeen said. "You have to evaluate whether its' a good place to spend money, and we concluded that it was going to be a positive, and we think we'll get a reasonable return."
First Century Energy installed the panels in December, and the project has since been "a success" Lundeen said.
He said the company began considering the project about three years ago. "A number of things happened over the three-year period," Lundeen said. "The price of solar panels declined and energy prices went up somewhat."
Added Lundeen: "At this point, I believe it's a positive in general that people start relying on some of these different sources of energy."
Mori said the possibilities are wide open for Georgia solar energy.
"Georgia has some of the best opportunities for these types of projects," said Mori, citing a report from the University of Arizona that ranked the state as third in the U.S. for solar energy potential.
Financially, he said, it's a win-win. He said the project in Norcross for instance "will achieve full payback within about 5 years, while providing additional cash flow for the property throughout the 25-year life of the solar array."
First Century Energy is a developer and integrator of solar projects for commercial, industrial and government clients.
For more information, visit www.firstcenturyenergy.com.
CORO Realty Advisors LLC was founded in 1997. The firm provides asset management, property management and real estate advisory services for residential and commercial properties.