A Green Future for Self-Storage: Getting on the Eco-Bandwagon

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Andree Jansheski was looking for a life-defining moment when she decided to turn Bellam Self Storage & Boxes in Marin Country, Calif., into a certified green business in 2006. She knew that overhauling the facility—built in 1965 and converted to storage in 1982—and its business practices would be a challenge. And costly. But it wasn’t about money.

“You do this because it’s in your heart. Because you respect your customers and you respect your environment,” Jansheski says. “If you go into wanting to be green and all you see are dollar signs, it’s never going to give you goose bumps.”

While environmental sustainability has been a hot topic for the past decade, the reality of global warming has catapulted the importance of the issue. President Barack Obama has pledged to spend $150 billion in the next decade to create 5 million green jobs.

Communities across America are spearheading recycling programs, banning plastic bags and planting trees. Businesses big and small are slashing energy consumption and promoting environmentalism. 
Green isn’t a passing fad or even a movement; it’s a new way of life. Like Jansheski, many self-storage professionals recognize this and are embracing Earth-friendly products and practices. 
 
Harnessing the Sun’s Power

Although there are a number of ways for self-storage builders and owners to “go green,” solar panels are still the most mainstream option for those looking to add a conservational element to their facilities. Solar technology has evolved, making it more affordable and easier to install. Government rebates and tax credits also add to the lure.

“It’s a great opportunity for self-storage owners because they have lots of roof space and get a lot of sun,” says Matt Arner, president of SolarFlair Energy in Hopkinton, Mass. In March, the company installed 99 solar panels on the roof of 126 Self Storage in Ashland, Mass. Although the panels only cover about 5 percent of the facility’s roof space, they produce 60 percent of the power needed to run the facility’s office and exterior lights.

Andree and John Jansheski installed solar panels to cover the rooftop of Bellam Self Storage & Boxes. The panels provide 100 percent of the facility's electricity use.

The project cost $149,817, but owner Michael Kane received a $67,568 rebate from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a $44,945 federal tax credit, a $7,221 state tax credit and other incentives, reducing the overall cost. Kane says he’ll pay the balance in six years and then, theoretically, should make money on the system, which is expected to generate about 18,900 kilowatt hours per year. In addition to saving about $3,800 on utility bills annually, he can possibly sell electricity back to his utility company.

Charlie Fritts, chief operating officer of Storage Investment Management Inc. (SIMI), is already seeing the benefits of the solar panels added to Planet Self Storage in Newington, Conn., one of 31 properties his company owns or manages. Installed 15 months ago, the panels produce 30 percent of the facility’s electricity.

“The financial benefit has improved because electric rates have increased,” Fritts says. SIMI is now converting the majority of its exterior lighting wall packs to LED technology. “These fixtures use more than 80 percent less energy for an equal level of light,” Fritts says.

The solar panels that cover just 2 percent of Acorn Mini Storage in Brentwood, Calif., generate more than enough power for the 1,000-unit facility, which opened in 2005. “This started paying for itself as soon as it was in,” says facility owner Jim Moita, who added solar in 2006 to take advantage of tax credits.

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