Before Nick Orso’s Body Shop, no one in town was even close to going “off the grid.” The 28,000-square-foot Syracuse, N.Y., shop has 280 solar panels on its rooftop that collect enough energy to supply about 90 percent of the energy for his operation.
“We were the first business in our area to switch over to solar power our project is what they wrote the code to for solar power installations,” says President Mike Orso. “Before our project, the largest solar power installation in town was when someone put a couple panels in their front yard. No one got into a setup where the whole business was on solar power with a dual meter, where overrun could be sold back to the power company.”
Because of the $400,000 investment of which $100,000 was covered by state and federal grant dollars Orso’s has reduced its electricity costs by about 60 to 70 percent. That’s $2,000 less per year going toward the grid.
“I wanted to have an alternative power system in my business, and we looked at everything from wind to solar power,” Orso says.
The solar opportunity emerged after Orso transitioned his painting operations from solvent-based to waterborne, a process he began four years ago by converting two 20-year-old downdraft spraybooths to waterborne paint drying systems. Eventually, after compressor and dryer system upgrades, and later replacing the booths with zero-emission technology, Orso’s nearly doubled its painting productivity.
“New technology affords us faster production time and faster drying time,” Orso says. “Instead of painting five cars a day, we can do eight or 10 projects a day in each booth.”
Orso lives on the green edge. He’s an early adopter in the industry as a shop that runs zero-emission spraybooths. He recognizes that his eco-conscious business decisions come with a price tag the two new booths cost in excess of $300,000. But the return on his investments is real.
Those spraybooths each use a 150,000 BTU furnace, compared to the 1.2 million BTU furnaces of the old equipment. All together, that’s 300,000 BTUs of gas power rather than 2.4 million essentially, the difference between heating two three-bedroom colonial houses versus 18 houses, Orso says.