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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 7, 2018 2 months ago

Giant credit union's $28 million complex bleeds solar

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Suncoast Credit Union aims for 'net zero' power consumption with its innovative new administration building.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Florida’s largest credit union has the word “sun” in its name and a sun in its logo, so it would make sense for it to be a leader in harnessing the awesome power of our nearest star.

That’s exactly what Suncoast Credit Union, with more than $9 billion in total assets as of July 2018, has done with its new three-story administration building east of downtown Tampa. The complex boasts more than 1,200 photovoltaic panels on the roof capable of generating 401.28 kilowatts of electricity at peak-power capacity.

Going solar wasn’t cheap, proven by the project’s $28 million budget. But Creative Contractors assistant project manager Brian Jones, echoing many in the green building sector, says the outlay will be worth it in the long run.

A rendering of Suncoast Credit Union's new administration building in Tampa. Courtesy photo.

“Especially in the commercial world, where you have large rooftops with lots of room for panels, you do have a large upfront cost for the material, but it should wipe out that cost in the end with what you are saving on power,” Jones says.

Tampa-based SEM Power provided the 1,216 solar panels, 608 power optimizers and nine inverters for the project, which will also have two car-charging stations for employees who drive electric vehicles to work. 

Jones says the building is an example of how Suncoast is “making a big push to have their facilities be net zero,” which means the company puts power back into the grid equal to the amount it uses. “On weekends when it’s sunny out and they’re not open, their electrical draw is going to be a lot less, so they’ll be able to put electric credits back into the system.”

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