Solar Comes to the Aviation Industry, with Help from SolarCity


SolarCity installs a 1 MW solar system for Unical Aviation, a global aircraft supplier. The company expects to cut its electricity bill by 80%, helping fuel its expansion.


Solar isn’t the only business that’s growing. Unical Aviation Inc., a global aircraft parts supplier, boosted its workforce by nearly 25% percent over the past year. What’s helping fuel that breakneck growth? Solar power, of course! The company, based in California, expects to realize savings with this unusual move for its industry.


Unical, whose clients include Boeing, most major airlines, and the military, brought in SolarCity (Nasdaq:SCTY), a national solar provider, to install a sprawling series of solar arrays on its roof. The panels will provide more than 1 MW of generation capacity. Unical expects the solar systems to cut its mushrooming monthly electricity bill by as much as 80%.


“We went solar first and foremost for environmental reasons,” says Unical executive vice president Leonardus Karsana. “But financially, it was a no brainer. Our electricity bill rises every year and we’re consuming much more electricity because we’re growing so rapidly. We hired 70 people over the past year and now have a total of 370 employees. We also opened a new MRO, maintenance, repair and overhaul division, which requires the purchase of a lot of machinery and is consuming a lot of electricity.”


Unical expects to save $200,000 on utility costs in the first year alone, and millions more over the solar power system’s lifetime. “Everyone is going to switch to solar, especially in sun-drenched states,” Karsana said. “It’s just a matter of time.”


The new solar array will prevent more than 27 million pounds of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere over its lifetime, which is equivalent to planting about 1 million trees or taking more than 2,300 gasoline-powered cars off the road (based on 20-year contract and data from the Environmental Protection Agency).


SolarCity designed and installed Unical’s solar system.


“One day, the roof of every industrial warehouse across the Southland will gleam with solar panels generating electricity from the most affordable source in the world—the sun,” said Jim Cahill, SolarCity’s regional vice president for Southern California. “Innovators like Unical Aviation are leading the way to that inevitable future, which will bring economic and environmental benefits that our state and nation still so sorely need.”