Address customers’ concerns over volatile energy rates to win more construction jobs.

As the year winds down, business owners must determine how they can reduce costs in 2012. Because electricity consumption is one of the largest operating costs, more businesses have started investing in technologies that will reduce these costs.

Across the United States, energy expenses continue to increase due to volatile fossil fuel prices and growing global energy consumption. In fact, electricity rates have risen 45 percent on average since 2000 and have jumped a startling 482 percent since 1970, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Amidst these growing financial challenges, customers also demand that businesses demonstrate environmentally responsible decisions in their energy use.

Many companies have started installing solar panels to reduce their energy costs. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), since 2000, the number of enterprise solar installations has risen 46 percent year over year as companies realize the economic benefits.

HOLT CAT, a Caterpillar equipment and engine dealer in south, central, north and northeast Texas, provides one example of the benefits that can be gained from solar panels. In 2012, the company will reduce their energy costs by using clean, renewable power from a newly installed solar energy system. The roof-mounted array of solar panels sits atop the company’s newest training facility in San Antonio, Texas, and offsets nearly 75 percent of the building’s electricity costs.

In 2008, 75 years after its doors first opened in Texas, HOLT CAT’s president and fourth-generation family leader, Peter M. Holt, saw new opportunities to invest in the company’s future and in the communities it represents.

After acquiring an abandoned building in San Antonio, Texas, the company began $3 million in renovations on its new training and support center. Boasting more than 22,000 square feet, the training center would eventually house more than 100 workers and have the capability to host over 130 people in the training and conference rooms.

Energy-Efficient Buildings

When planning the renovation, HOLT decided to make the building as energy efficient as possible by participating in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The program identifies and rewards current best practices and provides an outline for buildings to use less energy, water and natural resources; improve the indoor environment; and uncover operating inefficiencies.

“Every day our products are used to construct energy-efficient buildings across the country. We wanted to apply the same level of care and responsibility in the construction of our new training facility,” says Anthony Shedrock, HOLT CAT’s vice president of general services. “We saw the opportunity to be a leader both in our community and in our industry and took it.”

A Personal Power Plant

HOLT CAT easily integrated the solar array design and installation plans into the construction of their new facility. As construction professionals themselves, they realized the importance of space and resource utilization. Adding a solar energy system turned unused roof space into a solution to cut energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint.

Based on the available roof space, the solar provider estimated HOLT CAT could install 103 kilowatts of solar energy on 15,500 square feet of roof space, totaling more than 400 solar panels. Once installed, the system should produce nearly 75 percent of the facility’s electricity needs.

The solar energy solution was custom-designed for the HOLT CAT facility using an advanced racking system. By using clamps and solar wedge technology, the solar panels were installed without a single roof penetration. The innovative mounting system can withstand a 110-mph wind load and more than 30 pounds of pressure per square foot.

The Financial Benefits

The LEED system also recognizes the use of renewable resources that add to the building’s efficiency. When investigating this option, HOLT CAT looked closely at the financial benefits and available incentives for several renewable resources including wind, geothermal and solar energy.

They contacted a national solar company and learned about financial incentives available from the local utility company, and they received a federal tax grant, which paid for nearly 60 percent of the $500,000 system.


“We were adamant about applying a renewable resource to our facility,” says Shedrock. “Of all the renewable solutions we reviewed, solar was the only one that made 100 percent financial sense.”

Predictable Energy Spend

The solar energy solution that HOLT CAT uses integrates with the solar company’s advanced monitoring to record and display the current and historical energy production of HOLT CAT’s operation. The Web-based portal displays data consumption, current weather conditions, environmental contributions toward reducing greenhouse gasses and monetary savings in day, week, month, year and lifetime increments. The monitoring also enables multiple locations to be monitored through a single portal allowing HOLT CAT to add additional solar arrays to its portfolio.

“It’s important that we are able to monitor the production of our system,” says Shedrock. “Having visibility into what the system is producing compared to the building’s energy consumption allows us to better forecast our energy spend. The ability to plan our expenses is a huge advantage.”

Solar also allows HOLT CAT to protect against volatile energy rate increases by producing power from the sun for the system’s anticipated lifetime. By reducing dependence on third-party energy sources, the company can increase their energy stability for decades.

Cost Savings

More than six months after the installation, HOLT CAT is pleased with their investment. The project received its LEED Gold certification and a projected $16,000 in annual savings. Offsetting nearly three quarters of their electricity costs, HOLT CAT achieved a full payback on their investment in less than four years.


After positive feedback from customers and neighbors, HOLT CAT plans to include environmentally-conscious business practices, including adding additional solar arrays in new construction across their 118-county operation.

By The Numbers

Since 2000, the number of enterprise solar installations has risen 46 percent year over year as companies realize the economic benefits.


Construction Business Owner, December 2011