Baker has seized opportunities in the renewable-energy market, from small demonstration projects to one of the largest rooftop solar arrays in the U.S. at Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliner facility in North Charleston (see p. SE43) for the South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., which will own and maintain the solar panels.

South Carolina Solar

Boeing will use energy generated by the 2.6-MW, 10-acre array to power about 20% of plant operations. Work began in May and is expected to wrap up in October. The Unisolar PVL-144 solar panels weigh less than 1 lb per sq ft, which was important to the project because of the facility's 464-ft clear spans.

To help install those panels and others, Baker hired engineering students from Clemson, North Carolina State and Pennsylvania State universities for the summer. The project entails electrical engineering and renewable energy integration. “It's a technical field that requires an inquisitive mind, even on the installation side,” says Matthews. “It's a complicated system.”

But Baker Renewable isn't focused only on solar. In November, it installed South Carolina's first wind turbine, at Oceanfront Park in North Myrtle Beach for Santee Cooper, as part of the electric utility's wind education project. Baker installed a similar turbine on a 45-ft. tall, segmented monopole tower at North Carolina State University as part of the North Carolina Solar Center, a clearinghouse for renewable training and information.

Renewable energy has seen its ups and downs. Matthews views the market as dynamic. Federal projects often include renewable features, particularly solar hot water. He says renewables are gaining private-sector acceptance. “There is a great need for alternative energies, and there is a resource in the solar and wind arenas that we have in the United States. The need will not go away,” Matthews adds.

Baker's move into solar and wind energy is just one part of its growth strategy. While focusing on a core business of roofing and sheet metal work, it also created divisions that seek to take advantage of in-house knowledge and complete other exterior construction work, such as restorations.

Baker also is expanding in the South. About five years ago, it entered several new markets: Wilmington, N.C., Charleston, S.C., Nashville, Tenn., and Richmond, Va. It has also won projects in Savannah and Fort Benning, Ga. Matthews says the Southeast is “an area we feel is economically viable ... still has growth potential and an area we are hopeful will be the first out of the recession.”