Melfred Borzall’s Red Tools Going Green

October 2008 Vol. 63 No. 10

For over 60 years, Melfred Borzall’s directional drilling and horizontal earth boring tools have been identified by their signature red color. Now, those red tools are turning green.

Melfred Borzall has been manufacturing underground construction tools in California since 1946. Their main manufacturing facility is located on California’s Central Coast at Santa Maria, where the abundant sunshine and mild temperatures are ideal for solar power generation. When California experienced an energy crisis in 2003, causing rolling blackouts and skyrocketing prices, MB President Dick Melsheimer decided it was time for the company to establish energy independence through solar power.

After attending an informational Pacific Gas Electric workshop to learn how to improve his company’s energy efficiency, Melsheimer realized that solar power could be a smart business move and thoughtful environmental step. In 2004, Melsheimer had 648 photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the Santa Maria plant, producing over 77 kW of power. At that time, the system produced about two thirds of the plant’s electricity requirements.

“We were extremely pleased with the results of the initial installation,” Melsheimer said. “We were now producing the majority of our electricity from the sun, a non polluting source that does not rely on foreign oil.”

Melsheimer explained that photovoltaic panels produce energy when the photons in sunlight strike the silicon based panels. The electricity produced by the panels is direct current, or DC. The connected panels combine the electricity and feed it into an inverter. The inverter converts the DC power into AC, or alternating current, and matches it to the power conditions of the local electrical grid. Solar electricity combines with the grid supplied energy, and when demand is greater than solar production, grid power makes up the difference. When solar electric production exceeds demand, the electricity is “pushed upstream” and the electric meter runs backwards.

Solar power uniquely matches the fluctuations of electricity demand, Melsheimer said. “Electrical demand and rates are highest during summer daytime hours. This is exactly when solar produces the most electricity. It smooths out demand peaks and helps reduce the need for additional, typically fossil fuel, power plants.”

Upgrade