Posted by Rob Helmke | Friday, September 21, 2007 0 Comments

Plastic Ingenuity Going SolarPlastic Ingenuity, a Cross Plains plastic company that makes plastic packaging materials, has become something of a pioneer in Wisconsin's energy industry.

It is now producing some of the electricity it uses directly from the sun.

The company has installed 50 200-watt photovoltaic solar panels on its building on the western edge of Cross Plains to produce about one percent of its electricity from the sun.

"It's not huge, it's a first step," says President Tom Kuehn. "We would have done a lot more if we could. Our goal is to produce 10 percent of our electricity from renewable sources in five years."

For businesses, this is brand new. Photovoltaic solar cells have been around for years. But they're expensive with virtually no practical return on investment. As a result, they're mostly the domain of hobbyists - or used in remote areas out of the reach of power lines.

Suddenly, however, an array of new programs has made these systems a practical investment. Plastic Ingenuity, for example, will see a payback on its system in five years - at which point the system makes electricity for the company for free, an excellent long-term rate of return.

But the investment is also part of the company philosophy says Mark Olafsson, the company's Facilities Manager. The company is committed to doing what it can to reduce its energy use and help the environment.

"I am committed to this," Kuehn says. "We're an energy-intensive business that used oil in our product and a lot of energy to manufacture it. But we have to do something about our energy consumption and our energy sources. This is a small step, but we have to start somewhere."

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