Solar Wolf in Douglas Finds Energy To Grow
Solar Wolf Energy Inc
DOUGLAS — /Telegram & Gazzette/ About three months ago, Solar Wolf Energy Chairman and CEO Ted Strzelecki proposed the idea of covering 24,000 surface acres of Quabbin Reservoir with a floating solar array capable of producing 1 megawatt of power.
The state Department of Conservation and Recreation had no interest in the "floating voltaics" project, but Mr. Strzelecki still thinks it would be "unprecedented in its advancement of renewable energy."
Floating solar arrays are "the future of renewable energy," he said, benefiting from the cooling effect of water as well as providing a shade-free environment.
The proposed array would have covered 24,000 of the reservoir's 25,000 acres and provided income to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.
The idea, however, did not gain much support and raised concerns from conservationists.
"We're still serious about the project," Mr. Strzelecki said. "Unfortunately, most of the folks in Massachusetts are not as open-minded as the people in charge in the Western part of the country who are entertaining projects like this. Other states are also doing it. Overall, the benefits are mind-blowing. It seems crazy to me that no one will take this into consideration."
Though the project is in limbo, he said he still plans to meet with state officials for further discussions.
The state Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Water Supply Protection, in partnership with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, is responsible for the 98,000 acres of watershed that acts as a natural filter for the 412 billion-gallon reservoir that provides water to 2.5 million residents and 5,500 industrial customers.
Mr. Strzelecki said he was not aware of any other reservoir in the country where a floating solar array has been installed, and had not considered any other water body in Massachusetts.
Solar Wolf Energy Inc. has become one of the largest solar companies in New England, Mr. Strzelecki said, and recently moved to its new headquarters in a more than 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility to accommodate its quick expansion.
The company — a nationwide residential and commercial solar energy installer with experience in construction planning, installment execution, and energy and utility implementation — began working at the new space located at 100 Davis St. on Jan. 1. It houses Solar Wolf's main operations.
"Douglas is approximately 50 percent up and running currently and will be completed by February's end," Mr. Strzelecki said.
The new facility is "employee-focused," he said, providing employees (dubbed the "wolf pack") with a full gym with showers, a meditation room, library and other features to "maintain and improve staff morale and focus." In addition, the facility has office space and a large warehouse and garage to store equipment and Solar Wolf's fleet of vehicles.
"In our quest to help New Englanders save money and decrease their carbon footprint, we've grown so much that we have to expand our physical footprint," Mr. Strzelecki said. "It's essential that we have a contemporary, yet welcoming ‘den' for our Wolf Pack — employees and customers alike."
The Douglas location is the company's third building in Massachusetts, along with sites in Millbury and Marlboro.
Solar Wolf is building a 5-megawatt solar farm in Concord, New Hampshire, and has a pipeline of projects totaling more than 40 megawatts, he said.
"Currently the biggest project we are under contract for is the 39-megawatt solar farm on a farm in North Carolina," Mr. Strzelecki explained. "It is 100,000 solar modules at one location that should power over 1,000 homes. All our solar farms are actually going to be classified as agro-photovoltaic farms, or solar farms on farms."
Solar Wolf has three solar farms under contract that total 46-megawatts, he said, and several others in the pipeline that will take several months longer before a contract is signed.
"There are lots of objections that can kill a solar farm along the way," he said.
Solar Wolf has a staff of more than 130 people, he said, including electricians, installers, roofers, project managers and assistant project managers, sales reps, solar designers, site evaluation techs, system monitors, customer care agents, marketing managers, business development managers, permit runners, communications department staff, an in-house plasterer, and inventory and safety officers.
Mr. Strzelecki said the company is opening a fourth location in the Weymouth area by the end of summer.
"We are the largest residential solar company headquartered in New England," Mr. Strzelecki said. "By year's end, we will be over 250 passionate employees strong. Just this year we began with the solar farms."
But, he said, the company plans to continue to focus on residential installations that make up the majority of its business.
"Diversity, however, is always a great thing to capitalize on," he added. "With our aggressive growth in residential in just four short years, we look to use that same metric to leverage that into commercial and industrial."