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Manufacturing Idlers on Solar Power

September 21, 2017

Aerial countryside view of solar power panels on Componex

“Our goal is to run our manufacturing facility on solar power; to not use ANY fossil fuels”.

A drive to push boundaries has helped Componex become a web handling and converting industry leader. Experts at Componex have developed solutions that eliminate air entrainment and reduce production downtime using simple, clear-cut and cost-effective methods. This culture of innovation does not stop at dead shaft idler rollers, though. We want to demonstrate manufacturing can succeed when using solar power.

Solar power panel installers on Componex roof

Componex installed a one-quarter-megawatt solar power system atop its manufacturing facility, reducing the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions while contributing carbon-free energy to the electrical power grid.  “Government and business leaders say that solar power is too expensive or unreliable to power manufacturing,” President and Design Engineer Cal Couillard said. “But we are willing to show that it can be done. We think we are in a new industrial evolution.  In the 1900’s America began powering industries, homes, trucks, cars – everything– with fossil fuel.  In the next 20 to 30 years, we believe the course will change to use renewable energy.”

South view of solar power panels on roof at Componex


Six hundred and ninety-seven 340-watt solar panels are installed on the Componex manufacturing facility’s south-facing five-degree-angled roof. Its rated capacity is 237 kilowatts of direct current. The contract for this system was awarded to Convergence Energy, a resource firm that provides solar energy consultation, system design, construction and maintenance services to businesses and governments throughout the Midwest.  Arch Electric installed the system.

We utilized the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which offers a 30 percent tax credit for residential and commercial properties that use solar energy. Created in 2005 under the Energy Policy Act, the tax credit has helped annual solar installation grow by over 1,600 percent nationwide. Convergence Energy Vice President of Business Development Steve Johnson says:

“Componex is at the forefront of renewable energy. There’s obvious social and environmental benefits, but currently the financial returns are pretty strong.”

Solar power converters on Componex north wall


An on-site solar energy system cuts reliance on power imports from the grid, and is a great solution for many companies that are seeking to cut their electricity bills. What’s more, any surplus can be sold to the electrical power grid to boost revenues. Among the long-term benefits businesses can expect from producing their own energy are lower operating costs. This can have a tremendous impact on the bottom line for energy-intensive businesses such as manufacturers.

“Cal Couillard is really a forward thinker as it relates to renewables,” Johnson said. “It’s not easy to implement a big change. Energy has been the same for 100 years, and disruptive technology like solar causes great anxiety at the highest levels of corporate America.” Locally owned and operated, Componex strives to innovate. “Installing the solar power system shows that manufacturers can produce quality products while maintaining sound environmental principles” according to Couillard.  He asserts that,

“I want to be able to show other manufacturers that the belief that you can’t run a company off the sun is a myth. It is a myth that we have to continue burning fossil fuels. I want to prove it. We are producing our own electricity directly from the sun. It makes good financial sense.”


The $300,000 on-site solar energy generation investment displays the company’s passion for an environmentally healthy Wisconsin. It also demonstrates to the greater manufacturing community that solar energy is a financially sound investment. “An ambitious commitment to tackling climate change is compatible with a successful business model,” Couillard said. “The payback period for this system is expected to be 10 years.  After that, we will have free electricity for another 20 to 30 years.”

Couillard believes, “If you’re in manufacturing and you don’t do this, you’re going to be at a disadvantage”. Plans to install solar panels to Componex’s north-facing roof and batteries to collect solar energy are in the works. The additions will further move the company closer to energy independence. “Right now, we aren’t fully self-sufficient because we don’t have battery storage.  But I think it’s just a matter of time. In a couple years, we should be there.”

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Componex is a proud member of RENEW Wisconsin and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association

Video courtesy of John Blanchard – Arch Electric