Peter Geiger leans on one of 696 solar panels his company installed on the side of his Lewiston business, the advertising specialties company Geiger. The panels supply 100 percent of Geiger’s electricity needs. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — Driving northbound on the turnpike near Mile 80, the rows and rows of solar panels are noticeable.

Behind them is Geiger, publisher of Farmers’ Almanac and international distributor of branded promotional goods.

In all there are 696 ground-mounted solar panels. “Because there’s so many of them, the roof wasn’t practical,” said Peter Geiger, 66, co-owner of Geiger, who’s excited about his company’s energy improvements.

Geiger’s solar field is believed to be the largest owned by a private, commercial company in Maine, said Phil Coupe of Revision Energy, the company that did the installation.

Since the solar panels were planted in September, they’re generating enough electricity, on average, to provide 100 percent of electricity for the company.

In the winter when the hours of sunlight are short or it’s cloudy, “they don’t generate enough,” Geiger said. The company has to buy electricity through Central Maine Power. “In the summer they’ll generate excess electricity. We’ll send it back to CMP. Over the course of the year we get 100 percent coverage.”

The solar panels are eliminating some 320,000 pounds of carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants every year, Coupe said.

And they’re getting noticed.

A few days before Earth Day, Geiger was at a local restaurant. “A waitress said, ‘I just want you to know that I appreciate what you are doing with your building,’” he said. It’s nice, Geiger added, that people appreciate the company’s commitment to the environment.

The energy savings from the $550,000 solar field is estimated to have a 13-year payback time, not counting federal tax credits.

Geiger’s new solar power investment is part of the company’s $12.5 million renovation to make the building brighter, more pleasant and energy efficient.

Inside the building everything’s bright and new.

There’s more natural light through windows and skylights, attractive color schemes and large open-concept work spaces that minimize noise distractions.

Before the renovation “we had a two-story building built in 1968. It was very old, worn and drafty,” Geiger said. The improvements are sophisticated, “and way more comfortable.”

Part of that comfort comes from the energy efficiency improvements.

LED lights are everywhere, and make a big difference, with more light from bulbs that use less electricity and last longer. “Before, we were always changing light bulbs,” Geiger said.

There are new energy-efficient walls and ceilings, and a new natural gas heating system that’s rated as 96 percent efficient.

The building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, a designation indicating high energy efficiency standards that is given by the United States Green Building Council, Geiger said.

The changes speak to the sustainable nature of Geiger, both environmentally and economically, Geiger said.

Transitioning Geiger from a dated manufacturing space to an ultra-modern complex gives the company a chance to not only rebuild, but to do it in a way that addresses the sustainability efforts of the Geiger and Farmers’ Almanac brands, helping an environment that is increasingly more fragile, he said.

“We’re here for the long run,” Geiger said. “We put a building together to serve all our people for years and years. It’s something for people to be proud of.”

Geiger’s customers, which are around the world, care about doing business with companies that are using less fossil fuel and promoting a healthy environment. The solar field is good for the environment, and business, Geiger said.

“We have a lot of customers who wanted to know our positions. They want to know what you’re doing.” Being able to report on the company’s solar panels and the other environmental improvements “feels great,” he said.

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Inside Geiger, near windows with a view of the solar panels, hangs a large screen showing how much solar power the 696 panels generate each hour, along with the environmental benefits, including carbon offset, trees saved and fossil fuel not used. (Bonnie Washuk/Sun Journal)

NRCM: Solar panels make Maine less dependent

The Maine Resources Council of Maine was asked how Geiger’s 696 solar panels benefit the environment.

Solar panels help in several ways, said Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine project director for NRCM.

“The electricity that Geiger is making with their solar panels is not only bringing Mainers healthier air, it’s also making Maine less dependent on imported energy and helping advance our economy,” she said.

“Homeowners and municipalities across Maine are installing solar for its many benefits. Geiger is a great example of how Maine businesses can also take advantage of the cost savings of solar energy, while helping reduce climate-change-causing carbon emissions that impact Maine’s economy and way of life.”

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