In the Spring of 2019, Chattanooga-based BlueCross Blueshield of Tennessee announced plans to install solar panels on five of their corporate office buildings, a task which would be no small undertaking. They approached Lawson Electric Company to get the job done, knowing that they understood smart electrical engineering with an eye on sustainability.
Lawson was more than up to the task—they set records all along the way. Team members listened closely, helped determine what would be needed for the project, and took their knowledge, experience, and engineering excellence up onto the BCBST rooftops. Lawson installed over 2,900 solar panels across the five roofs. The BCBS solar array was a groundbreaking success! The project is one of the largest roof top installs to date in the state of Tennessee.
BCBST serves more than 3.5 million members and 11,000 companies as the state’s largest health insurance plan provider. Already on the Forbes list as Best Employer for Diversity and Best Large Employer, BCBST is also one of a select few entities leading the charge to create greener business communities in regards to solar energy. BCBST operates the second largest Gold LEED-certified campus in the U.S.
What is LEED? LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is one of the most popular green building certification programs worldwide. It demands attention to design, construction, and operation of green buildings in ways that promote environmental responsibility and long-term sustainability utilizing natural resources.
Solar arrays begin with a single solar energy cell known as a photovoltaic cell. “Photo” meaning light, and “voltaic” meaning voltage. Cells convert sunlight into an electrical current. When several solar cells are connected together, a solar panel is created. When solar panels are combined, a solar array is created. The current generated by a solar array is direct current (DC).
In the case of the BCBST solar array, the company stands to harness 1.1 megawatts of DC power, all from the free natural resource of sunlight.
At the outset, BCBST’s state mission was to provide peace of mind through better health for its patients. The company can now expect to save many millions of dollars in energy costs and can pass those savings directly to their clients. Their example also paves the way for companies around the world looking to the future of sustainable energy production.
After all of BCBST’s solar install projects are complete (including, but not limited to, the Lawson roof install), they look to offset an average of 25% of utility power and, on peak production days, contribute back to the energy grid. Energy costs savings are expected to reach $23 million during the projected lifetime use of the solar equipment. The annual carbon reduction represented by the array is equal to the amount of carbon stored in 5,000 acres of trees. The expanded installation will save the energy equivalent of 400,000 gallons of gasoline per year.