Glaxo to Get Largest U.S. Solar Rooftops; Uses Suntech Panels

October 28, 2010, 10:09 AM EDT

Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) -- GlaxoSmithKline Plc, the U.K.’s largest drugmaker, is building the largest U.S. rooftop solar project at its distribution center in York, Pennsylvania, to reduce energy costs and emissions of greenhouse gasses.

The three-megawatt solar system will use 11,000 solar panels made by Suntech Power Holdings Co. and provide all of the electricity the building consumes during the year, London-based Glaxo said today in a statement.

Glaxo is trying to meet a goal of reducing electricity use 45 percent by 2015, and plans to start a second three-megawatt system at its U.S. headquarters in Pittsburgh by the end of next year, said Larry Brown, vice president of North America Supply at Glaxo’s consumer health care unit.

“This is just the beginning of a four-part strategy to go solar,” Brown said in an interview. “By the end of 2014 we’ll be 100 percent powered by solar.”

Glaxo hired American Capital Energy, a closely held developer based in North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, to design and install the solar rooftop in York as well as a 700-kilowatt system at a distribution center in Fresno, California, in March.

For the York installation, Glaxo expects to receive a $1 million grant from the state of Pennsylvania and $4.1 million in a federal tax grant, as well as generate renewable energy credits to help offset the system costs. It should pay for itself through lower power bills in five years, and the electricity is free after that, Brown said.

The largest rooftop solar installation operating in the U.S. is a 2.36-megawatt system at the Atlantic City Convention Center.