Sign up to receive breaking news and new edition alerts:
2017-07-14 / Front Page

Here comes the sun

Historic building in Lewistown’s Monument Square gets a solar upgrade
By r. brock pronko
Regional Business Analyst


Photo courtesy of One-Stop Communications Photo courtesy of One-Stop Communications Lewistown, PA – The Montgomery Ward Building located at Monument Square in Lewistown was built in 1929. In April, Sun Directed, a residential and commercial solar energy installer in Bellefonte, installed a cluster of 88 high-efficiency solar panels on the building’s roof. The only place you can see the panels is from the bell tower of the adjacent Mifflin County Courthouse. Since the Montgomery Ward building is listed in the national historic registry, any changes to the structure had to preserve its Art Deco-style façade, with two-story bay windows and pilasters, bands of glazed terra-cotta panels, and near the top, a female figure holding a torch.

Inside, the 20,000-square-foot office building has been upgraded with several energy efficiencies: a state-of-the art HVAC system, better insulation, and more efficient lighting throughout the building.


From left to right: Deb Bargo, Lewistown mayor, Michael Buffington, president of Monument Square Center, Noah Buffington, David Force, installer for Sun Directed, and Sel Edor, energy consultant for Sun Directed. 
Photo courtesy of One-Stop Communications From left to right: Deb Bargo, Lewistown mayor, Michael Buffington, president of Monument Square Center, Noah Buffington, David Force, installer for Sun Directed, and Sel Edor, energy consultant for Sun Directed. Photo courtesy of One-Stop Communications “The energy efficiencies and solar panels have helped lower our energy costs, which as a landlord is always a focus of mine,” said Mike Buffington, the building’s owner.

“Not only are we lowering our carbon footprint, but the solar panels enable us to lower our utility expenses, which keeps the energy costs down for tenants in the building.”

Buffington also owns One-Stop Communications and Cricket Wireless, with offices in Lewistown, Selinsgrove and State College.

The solar panel system, which was officially commissioned on May 23, is expected to produce 33,000 kilowatt- hours of clean, solar energy in its first year of operation, which represents about 30 percent of the total electricity used at Monument Square Center. Over 25 years, the solar energy system is expected to produce enough energy to offset more than 700 tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent to planting 17,000 trees, or saving 72,000 gallons of gasoline.

“We’ve had a lot of cloudy days this past spring, but even on a total overcast day, the solar cells are still producing about 25 percent of the what the system is capable. Regardless if it’s sunny or cloudy, the solar cells are always producing electricity during the day,” he said.

Buffington took advantage of a USDA energy grant to buy and install the solar panels and he also receives federal tax credits for the solar project.

“Thanks to the grant and tax credits, it will only take about four years to see a return on investment for the solar project,” said Buffington.

In February 2015, former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that rural agricultural producers and small business owners could apply for assistance for purchasing and installing renewable energy systems or for making energy efficiency improvements.

More than $280 million in grants were awarded by the Obama Administration to help farmers, ranchers and other small business owners save money on their energy bills, reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, support America’s clean energy economy, and cut carbon pollution.

“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” said Vilsack.

“The funding we made available helped farmers, ranchers, business owners, tribal organizations and other entities incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations and reduce energy use and costs while improving their bottom line.”

Although the Trump Administration has vowed to make extensive changes to government regulations regarding energy development and use, the Obama-era USDA grants are still being doled out, and Buffington is taking advantage of them to develop another solar project in Lewistown.

“We applied for another USDA grant for a smaller building close to the Monument,” said Buffington.

“The solar panel system will be bit smaller but will basically function the same as the one that’s already in place at Monument Square, which will also help lower energy costs for the tenants in that building.” .

Return to top

Sign up for Biz Alerts

Email Marketing You Can Trust