Sunglasses on the roof

On the same day that Vice President Biden delivered his report on the results of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to President Obama in Washington, Martha N. Johnson, administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, visited Philadelphia to tout the benefits of the 2009 stimulus funding act here.
      It was an unlikely news conference Thursday, staged on a sunny morning on the roof the U.S. Veterans Affairs building in the city’s Germantown section, where 1,937 solar panels have been installed in a $6 million project that Johnson said will reduce the building’s carbon footprint by nearly 400 metric tons.
      Attendees and speakers, among them local contractors, were issued sunglasses to counteract the blinding effect of the roof, painted a reflective white. The rooftops of the various wings equal two and a half football fields, and the panels are arranged to avoid shadows from utility structures on the buildings.
     “This is the smart thing to do for the environment, for the economy, and for the taxpayer,” Johnson said. “By reducing the buildings’ energy costs we save taxpayer dollars in building operations and utility costs.
      “Green jobs and green growth will be pillars of our future economic success,” she said.
        Her agency, the nation’s main procurement organization, will spend nearly $46 million on green-based renovations and modifications to other area federal buildings.
       Contractor Ray Angelini, of Ray Angelini Inc. in Sewell, said the Germantown project created 35 jobs. The amount of energy generated, which will offset the building’s electric bill, would be enough to power 55 houses, he said.
        Takahiko Tanimoto Sr., vice president of Sharp Electronics, a Japanese company, said the demand for solar panels, including those on the roof, was so strong that the company had to double its manufacturing workforce in Memphis, Tenn.
      Among the speakers was electrician Lane Lundberg, 40, of Medford, a father of three who was laid off in October 2009. With hundreds of electricians out of work, “I was not optimistic about getting back to work as an electrician,” he said.
     He said that Angelini called him back on the job in February and that the project gave him an opportunity to learn the new skills involved in installing solar panels. “It was a wonderful situation for me.”