For this Indiana Business, Moving to Solar Was Far More than a Financial Decision

For Bill Boncosky, CEO of Art to Remember, a child’s artwork is much more than scribbles. Instead, it’s a meaningful milestone of childhood, something to be captured and cherished by parents.

Likewise, Boncosky says his decision to make solar power his Indianapolis-based company’s primary source of electricity was not simply financial. No, it was bigger than that. Much bigger.

In 2011, Boncosky was a successful corporate attorney who decided to leave legal practice in favor of entrepreneurship. His role model was his father, who had owned a company for 30 years in Indianapolis. “I thought of how excited and passionate he was about his company; he was such a great role model. So I started looking for a business to acquire.”

Established in 1995, Art to Remember is well known among school across the country as a sponsor of art-related fundraisers. The company works with schools to raise money for their art programs by turning student art into a variety of keepsakes cherished by parents and other loved ones.

Celebrating Kids, Investing in the Future

“When I found out Art to Remember was for sale, I toured the operation and it had a lot of printing and office equipment components, which reminded me of my father’s business. I’m also a dad of two young children and immediately understood and was inspired by the mission of celebrating kids and their creativity,” Boncosky recalls. “I purchased the company and it’s worked out well.”

So well, in fact, that Art to Remember outgrew its 25,000-square-foot location. Continued growth required investment in the future. In 2017, Boncosky began the process of designing and building a new 35,000-square-foot headquarters on East 59th Street in Indianapolis. There was one thing he knew for certain he wanted in the company’s new building: solar power.

There were several factors driving the decision. Art to Remember uses a significant amount of energy in its temperature-controlled, combined office-production-warehouse space. Solar power, when coupled with a well- built, well-insulated building, would save on the company’s electricity costs. Equally important to Boncosky, however, was the environmental impact of solar energy.

“Going solar represents an investment in the environment and our community. For me, it was the right thing to do,” he says.

Engage Contractors, Solar Partner Early in the Process

Boncosky engaged his contractor early in the design-build process to ensure his new building could accommodate a roof-mounted solar system. After evaluating two solar companies, he chose Carmel-based Solential Energy, which specializes in solar solutions for business, schools, municipalities, healthcare, and agricultural applications, as Art to Remember’s solar solutions partner to design, build and maintain the array.

Jim Shaw, CEO of Solential, was appreciative of being brought into the project early in the building’s design phase. “While roof-mounted solar arrays are common, they can be challenging particularly if a building is older or if a new building not configured to be load bearing. In the case of new construction, it’s much easier to design the roof to accommodate the weight of a photovoltaic array, provide access for maintenance and also to avoid issues with the roof structure itself.”

He adds, “Art to Remember’s system is large, with 298 panels weighing about 50 pounds each. We were looking at adding 7.5 tons to the roof and that didn’t include the rack system. Advanced planning was critical to successful installation.”

Although the Art to Remember building was completed in September 2017, the solar array was not yet in place. However, it had to be installed and functional by the end of 2017 to qualify for 30-year tax credits that were set to be replaced with shorter-term tax credits in 2018.

Boncosky says Solential was on top of the project, achieving a go-live date of December 22, 2017.

Two Years of Solar Power Later

Art to Remember’s solar system may just be one of Indianapolis’ best-kept secrets. Despite the company’s high-visibility location, the solar system is virtually invisible – unless one happens to do a flyover (see time lapse video).

As part of his Solential solar solution, Boncosky has access to the solar provider’s Solview app that enables real-time tracking of the systems power production. Boncosky placed monitors in Art to Remember’s production area so team members can see the performance data of our system.

“For many of our teammates, our solar system is a big source of pride. They love being able to track how the system is performing and when we add energy back to the grid for others to use,” Boncosky says.

“In fact, it’s become a great way to attract talent. Many people are attracted to a company and culture that values sustainable energy,” he adds.

The system has affected the company’s bottom line as well. He saves an average of $1,500 per month on electricity, even though the new building is 10,000 square feet larger. The company has also reduced its carbon emissions by 80 percent.

Reflecting on why privately held companies should move to solar power, Boncosky offers this advice. “Our solar system has clearly had an impact on our business and community. It sends a strong message about our company’s culture and values, both of which are important to our team and our customers. Looking at solar as a long-term, big-picture investment, I’m happy we went this direction.”

He adds with a smile, “Just make sure you have a good contractor and solar solutions provider.”