A major solar project is underway in the center of Hutchinson, but you’d need an aerial view to spot it.
“Most people won’t even realize it’s there,” said Matthew Field, fourth-generation CEO of Goebel Fixture Co.
At its building at the intersection of Roberts Road and Dale Street Southwest, the manufacturer of architectural millwork for restaurants, retailers, homes and hotels is adding an extensive 322-kilowatt system of south-facing solar arrays. The neighborhood has several large trees, but the rooftop system is able to bypass most obstruction.
“It should help offset about 20-30% of our energy usage,” Field said.
Plans for a solar array were first discussed with Ideal Energies about two years ago, but at that time a plant in Minnetonka seemed the most ideal due to incentives from Xcel Energy. When the facility was closed and sold in 2019, plans shifted to Hutchinson. Though the Xcel incentives weren’t able to follow, the plan still made sense.
“It serves many purposes for the organization to do this,” said general manager Jon Hagstrom.
The offset on energy usage will bring about long-term money savings if all goes well, which should result in a win-win situation. Ideal Energies sells the equipment and handles construction and permit legwork. The solar project will also help Goebel market itself. The manufacturer does business across the United States, including in metro areas that place a high value on green efforts.
“It seems like more and more of our client are asking us and wondering what we’re doing for the environment, for sustainability,” Field said. “We do work with various European firms. They are fairly conscious, I would say, regarding sustainability efforts.”
The project became official late 2020 after an unusual year at Goebel. With so many retail stores and restaurants as customers, the pandemic hit hard.
“We made some (personal protective equipment) items mid-pandemic,” Field said. “We made some face shields and things like that.”
As the pandemic continued, federal Payroll Protection Plan dollars were used to keep employees at work creating desks, cabinets and other furniture for a remodel at the Goebel office.
“We ended up making it in-house out of obsolete materials and really used the PPP money to keep payroll going,” Field said.
Business has since picked back up, and the solar project is nearing completion. The goal is to have everything in place mid-summer.
“We’re climbing out of 2020 and looking toward the future,” Hagstrom said.