Software firm reaches for the sun

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: Solar, Sustainability | Tags: |


1,300 solar panels rise above a parking lost at Epic Systems in Verona, WI.

From an article by Tom Conent in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Verona – By the end of the year, the largest solar project yet built in Wisconsin will take shape in the rolling countryside that Epic Systems calls home.

And by the middle of next year, the new solar “farm” will double in size again.

Clearly, Epic, a fast-growing provider of sought-after health care software that’s hiring 1,000 people just this year, doesn’t embrace small projects.

It’s more cost-effective to build a big renewable energy project than to come back later and expand it, said Bruce Richards, director of facilities and engineering.

And it fits in with a green vision espoused by company founder and chief executive Judith Faulkner.

“We were in a meeting, and I was discussing the payback on a particular project, thinking she might have some concerns,” said Bruce Richards, director of facilities and engineering at Epic. “But she didn’t hesitate. She said, ‘But once it’s paid off, the energy is free, right?'”

Epic clearly has the financial wherewithal to undertake a green-energy investment that other firms might seek state dollars to help fund. Officials declined to disclose the cost of the project.

The company is a developer of health care IT software that helps hospitals move toward electronic medical records. Epic sales grew 27% in 2010. Revenue reached $825 million in 2010, compared with $76 million in 2001.

Focused on sustainability
Epic is an economic engine that’s a Wisconsin outlier: A booming business that’s about as far from the state’s manufacturing heritage as you can get.

The company is moving to wean itself off fossil fuels in a big way.

Already, most buildings on the sprawling campus are heated and cooled with a ground-source heat pump system, which means the campus needs no natural gas for heating and no electricity for cooling in the summer.

About 1,300 solar panels were erected in recent months on a latticelike structure above an employee parking lot.

Faulkner picked the color of the lattice to match the deep blue light posts that dot downtown Verona, Richards said.

The remaining parking spaces are underground, to retain the pastoral feel of the campus. The result, Richards tells a visitor walking between buildings across the complex, “You’re walking on a green roof right now.”

Richards says the driver of the green campus and move for energy self-reliance comes from a vision of doing right by the planet.

“Sustainability, that’s really what it’s all about,” he said. “We’re looking for 100-year sustainability here. Everything we do in design and put in, that’s what we’re looking to do.”

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    A statewide nonprofit dedicated to promoting economically and environmentally sustainable energy policies and practices in Wisconsin.

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