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Tax credit boosts firm's crossover to solar
Dennis Arserio, right, DataScan facilities manager, shows Forsyth County Commissioner Todd Levent some of the technology used in the solar array. - photo by Jim Dean

Most everyone has heard of cutting a ceremonial ribbon to welcome new facilities, but how about a power cord?

That’s exactly what one south Forsyth business did to officially roll out the second largest commercial solar energy array in Georgia.

DataScan Technologies LLC, a subsidiary of JM Family Enterprises Inc., now has the capacity to capture and convert sunlight to create an estimated 285,500 kilowatt hours of electricity each year.

To symbolize the impact on the firm's electricity bill, company leaders cut a yellow electrical cord instead of a red ribbon during a recent dedication ceremony.

DataScan Technologies is a global leader in wholesale finance accounting and risk management systems and services. It employs about 500, including some 200 at the local center.

Brent Sergot, vice president of DataScan, said officials began developing ways to reduce the data center’s environmental impact about a year ago.

He said the solar array, which is more than 24,000 square feet and housed on the center’s roof, has the capacity to produce electricity equal to that used by some 25 standard residential homes each year.

It would take 377,000 pounds of coal or 477 barrels of oil to produce that much energy.

Colin Brown, president of JM Family Enterprises, thanked state leaders for approving Georgia’s Clean Energy Tax Credit legislation during the past legislative session.

“Without a partnership with the state of Georgia, this would not have happened,” Brown said. “We’re headquartered in the sunshine state of Florida, but Florida offers no energy credits.

“Georgia is on the forefront in leadership in this area. You’re having a great impact on the environment while also creating jobs.”

Estimates from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and the Georgia Solar Energy Association indicate the solar industry in 2010 had about 450 direct and indirect jobs, which generated about $1.3 million in withholding taxes.

DataScan’s solar array features nearly 1,200 glass modules, which absorb sunlight and can withstand winds up to 130 mph. The modules are also hail-resistant.

The array, produced by California-based solar systems manufacturer Solyndra, is arranged on the roof to avoid shadows.

Officials said the $2 million investment in the array should be returned in about seven years through reduced power costs.

The short-term goal is to lower the data center’s energy consumption by 10 percent in 2011.

Several state and local elected officials attended the dedication.

Forsyth Commissioner Todd Levent called the project “absolutely on target.”

“I’m all for the whole concept of getting away from foreign oil,” he said. “With a seven-and-a-half-year return on their investment, this makes a lot of sense.

“It’s nice to know Georgia is leading the way with environmental incentives.”