By Mary O’KEEFE
From the outside J’s Maintenance at 3550 Foothill Blvd. looks like a normal company building, but high atop the roof a new dawn has been ushered in.
J’s Maintenance has gone solar.
“It took a good six months of research,” said Chris Waldheim of the family owned and operated business.
Chris and his father Edward invited the community to a solar party on Saturday for their official ribbon cutting ceremony. Local solar company PHAT Energy installed the system and was on hand to explain the technology and its benefits.
Visitors donned hard hats and climbed onto a scissor lift to travel to the roof to view the array of solar panels.
“You can see how solar power is very quickly energized and then is quickly converted to energy,” said PHAT Energy general manager Philippe Hartley.
Hartley stood next to a solar panel powering a fan on the scissor lift. He explained the science behind solar panels and how the panels generate DC (direct current) power.
“The entire neighborhood uses AC (alternating current) energy. The inverters convert the DC to AC,” he explained.
Once that power is converted it can fulfill the company’s electric needs. Any power left over goes to the electric company, in this case Glendale Water and Power, and the company receives credit.
Waldheim said he knew it was better for the environment but wanted to make certain it was financially the right choice. That is when PHAT stepped in.
“We can help people [traverse] the permitting and rebate programs,” Hartley said.
Waldheim estimated he will see the investment paying off in seven years, earlier if power costs continues to rise, he said.
The building had already been converted to solar power before the ribbon cutting.
Waldheim said the switch was seamless.
The solar panels line the roof in a method called stringing. This is a way to minimize shading, so if a tree casts a shadow on one panel during a certain time of day another panel is there to pick up the sun.
“So there will be no interruption in [power],” Hartley explained.
J’s Maintenance founder
Edward Waldheim said he was familiar with both solar and wind power because it was prevalent in his native country of Argentina.
He said that with the California challenge for companies to have 30% of their energy come from renewable sources this is a good solution.
“I hope this will set the stage for other companies to do likewise,” he said.
Congressman David Dreier was also on hand to view the new panels and praise the Waldheim’s for their energy wise practice. Glendale Councilmember Frank Quintero, a long time friend of the Waldheim’s, also added his congratulations.
“This is a family that does so much for the community,” he said of the family’s generosity for schools and non-profit organizations.
“This is a perfect model of what is working in this successful, family owned business. They support their community and the environment,” Hartley said.
Bea Blessley and Kim Gutkosky listened to everything the PHAT energy workers were saying about solar and, they said, they liked what they heard.
“We try to use community based businesses when we can,” Blessley said, of Jenkins Property Management. Her company manages many properties around the foothills. “Many of our tenants are asking us about solar.”
She liked the savings and the fact that PHAT owners are from the local area.
Most on Saturday just wanted to know how easy it was to convert to solar, how much could they save and how can they use rebates and other “green” programs to save off the costs of installation.
The answer from Waldheim was it is easy and worth the research.
“But you have to hurry because every December the programs change and you get less from the government,” he said.
For information on PHAT visit their website at www.phatenergy.com or call (818) 249-7428. For information on solar through the county visit http://solarmap.lacounty.gov. For Southern California Edison go to www.sce.com/PowerandEnvironment/Renewables/Solar click on right column California Solar Initiative. For the city of Glendale go to www.glendalewaterandpower.com and click on the Environment then scroll down to 5.) solar panels or call (818) 548-3300.