Thu, May 23

Solar power brightens future for Bent River Machine 

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

CLARKDALE -- Bent River Machine, built in the shadow of the former Clarkdale smelter, has taken its high-tech attitude to a new level – this time with energy.

In a building across the tracks from the Verde Canyon Railway station, the small high-tech company designs custom automation and tooling machines for companies all over the world.

To target its energy consumption, Bent River has lined its rooftop overlooking the Verde River valley with 242 solar panels with the help of Verde Solar Power of Cornville, according to Bent River owner Herald Harrington.

The sun configuration at the Clarkdale location will actually get him about 65,000 to 70,000 watts of power until about 5 p.m. and that is enough to run his building most of the time, explained Harrington.

Any solar power that is not used by Bent River, gets put into the Arizona Public Service grid, and Bent River is reimbursed at the same rate, he continued.

If all his machines are operating, all his air conditioning is running and they are running the welder, he may have to draw some power from APS, but not right now.

“Right now, every time I’ve looked, we’re running the meter backwards,” Harrington said. They are producing power and selling it to APS, he said.

The business owner said the solar panels should be enough to cover their energy use.

Instead of paying APS each month, Harrington said purchasing the solar project will pay for itself in about five or six years.

“Then in about 20 years, in essence, we’re not paying anybody. It’s free power from then on,” he pointed out.

The business owner said he invested in the solar energy for number of reasons. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Second, Harrington said the Clarkdale company works closely with the solar industry because it manufactures solar panel laminator machines for research and development companies, small manufacturers and universities.

Harrison said he was also excited about the positive impact the solar project will have on the company’s carbon footprint. Since they went online four days ago, they have saved the equivalent of 3.6 tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Bent River is a robotics and automation company with software engineers, mechanical engineers, mechanical and electrical assembly people, and the local company employs about 25 people right now, he said.

Harrington said he picked the location for his building in Clarkdale in 1997 because he felt the whole town was built for the Smelter years ago. At the time when he built the building, Clarkdale discussed making the Smelter area an industrial area. “We were kind of pioneers,” he said

There has been talk of putting in a road from the cement plant road for 20 years and Clarkdale is actually working on it, he said. There is an opportunity for other businesses to locate in the Smelter area, he added.

For Bent River, its location is not as important because the company is shipping its work all over the world; and not doing any “walk-in-business.”

The only walk-in-business that Harrington and his wife, Norela, said they see at the Smelter industrial site are the Clarkdale donkeys.

Clarkdale is becoming known for a group of loose donkeys that visit residents unannounced through town.

But that is one of the advantages of being in Clarkdale, the couple agreed.

“Where else can you look up and see a bobcat outside your front window?” Norela asked.

Herald said it was the silly donkeys and crazy roadrunners staring and pecking at his windows that he really enjoys about the location.

“It’s a really nice area out here,” Herald summed up. “We really like it here.”