NORTH ANDOVER — One of the largest buildings in the Merrimack Valley now boasts the largest privately owned solar panel array in the state.
The roof of the old Lucent Technologies plant now holds more than 1,000 photovoltaic panels capable of producing enough electricity to power 200 homes on a sunny day.
Dan Leary, president of Nexamp, the North Andover company that installed the panels, credits Orit and Jeff Goldstein, owners of Osgood Landing, for their strong support of and investment in solar power.
"Ozzy Properties has the vision to understand that alternative energy sources are critical to the future success of businesses regionally and nationally," said Leary, whose two-year-old company has become a regional leader in alternative energy solutions.
Ozzy Properties President Orit Goldstein said the installation is beneficial for environmental and financial reasons.
"We are proud to be on the forefront of a growing business-environmental movement and are confident that our efforts will spur other companies to take similar actions," Goldstein said. "The notion that we can do something that is environmentally sound while also achieving a financial benefit is particularly appealing."
Neither Nexamp, nor Ozzy Properties, intended to have the largest, privately owned solar array in the state.
It happened in stages.
In 2007, Nexamp, then a fledgling company with five employees, was hired by Ozzy Properties to install a set of panels on the roof that would be capable of creating 103 kilowatts of power. The Goldsteins liked it so much, Leary said, that they recently had his company install another array capable of creating 67 kilowatts of power.
"Once they saw how great (the first phase) worked, they wanted to do a second system," Leary said.
Ellen Keller, vice president of commercial real estate for Ozzy Properties, said, "We didn't plan to be the biggest. We got an e-mail from Dan telling us we were the biggest."
Leary said one of the reasons Ozzy Properties liked the project so much is that Nexamp is a "turnkey operation" that handles everything for their clients, from permitting and financing to installation and maintenance.
"People think it takes a lot to make it work and then they wonder if it's worth it," he said.
While the total project cost about $1 million, he said, Ozzy Properties took advantage of $750,000 in state and federal tax credits and got other state-financed incentives so that the payback period shrunk to just 41/2 years.
That is, Ozzy Properties will break even on its investment by 2011 or 2012, at which point it will start getting free electricity to offset huge energy costs for the 2-million-square-foot building.
Meanwhile, Keller said, the company is considering expanding the use of green energy to power the vast building, including adding wind turbines, additional solar panels and possibly even possibly installing so-called "green roofs" — using plant material as roof cover.
"We'll consider anything," she said, noting that the company's goal is to save money while also being good stewards of the environment.
Inside the building, other measures are being taken to save energy, including turning off lights in some of the vast, unused spaces in the old Lucent manufacturing facilities, putting lights on timers and motion-detectors, and turning down the heat or using less air-conditioning.
The solar panels and conservation measures combined have "dropped our energy bills," Keller said.
She said that even before Lucent started laying off people and moving out — the company is scheduled to be completely out of the building by January 2009 — they had realized significant energy savings.
While Ozzy Properties can boast the largest privately owned solar array, it is not the largest in the state.
The two largest are owned by municipalities, said Jon Abe, vice president of business development for Nexamp, including one in Brockton and another in Waltham.
The second-largest private solar array is owned by MassInnovations in Fitchburg. MassInnovations is a company owned by Bob Ansin, who is developing the old Wood Mill on Merrimack Street in Lawrence.