Shenango Township company launches solar array

New Castle News

Berner International, also known as Berner Air Curtains, has gone solar.

The Shenango Township company’s “Solar Switch On” event Thursday at its Progress Avenue campus celebrated the launch of its solar array.

The array, five years in the making, began generating power in November and became fully operational in January, according to Berner CFO Denise Grady.

“It is not the end. It is a step towards sustainability,” Grady said. “It is an energy savings product. We always knew it was the right thing to do.”

Grady said Berner’s solar journey began with a conversation with Sharon Pillar, the executive director of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Solar Center which facilitates financing and implementation of solar technology.

“Through their organization, we were able to get information on the current state of solar technology and funding options available,” Grady said. “We did the evaluation. It made financial sense, but more importantly, it was an outward sign of our mission of sustainability.”

Berner’s mission is “to save energy and create healthy, comfortable environments.”

Grady said the conversation began in earnest to adopt solar in October 2021, with the project beginning in June 2022 and the panel installation beginning a year later.

The solar array is rooftop mounted on the factory and is set up to cover any future expansion of the company.

Installation was done by EIS Solar of Carnegie, while a portion of the installation cost was covered by a federal Department of Agriculture grant.

“It’s been a long journey, but it’s been worth it,” Grady said. “There’s been a lot of people that’s helped along the way.”

Grady said Berner is the first company of its kind in Lawrence County to implement this solar initiative and one of the first between Pittsburgh and Erie. Lawrence County has been on the radar of solar companies, including one from Texas who were pushing for zoning permission to install panels on prime North Beaver Township farmland.

She said the amount of energy generated from the array would be enough to power 88 houses a year. The amount of CO2 emissions saved annually is the equivalent of planting 4,200 trees.

“As our company continues its net zero trajectory, this project is a major step in our efforts toward sustainability through reducing our carbon footprint,” company CEO and President David Rimbey said. “We greatly appreciate the guidance of PA Solar Center for enabling our company to approach a net zero energy status more quickly.”

PA Solar Center’s Leo Kowalski presented Berner with the center’s Lodestar Award, which recognizes leaders in the solar energy field in the state. Berner is the first Lawrence County business to receive the award.

“Berner International’s investment in solar energy demonstrates that you can take actions that are good for the environment and for a company’s bottom line,” Kowalski said.

“We hope that this example will spur other businesses to follow their lead.”

Chris Sainato, representing the Lawrence County commissioners, said Berner is a pioneer and asset in the county. Forward Lawrence’s Executive Director Ben Bush said he hopes Berner’s example will guide other businesses in western Pennsylvania to follow suit.

That was echoed by Mikael Berner, the company’s chairman of the board.

“This substantial solar investment helps us deliver on Berner’s mission to save energy and create healthy, comfortable environments for our customers, employees and the planet.”

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