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Piedmont Office Takes on Solar Panel Project

05/21/2012 | By Matthew Bechard

Piedmont Office Realty Trust (NYSE: PDM) has one solar project and is open to taking on more solar related initiatives in the future, according to Jason Williams, the company's vice president of construction.

Williams spoke with REIT.com during the 2012 NAREIT Leader in the Light Working Forum in Dallas about Piedmont's solar project and other sustainability projects the office REIT has taken on. He said the biggest initiative that highlights the company's overall sustainability efforts is its solar project in an office building in the northeast.

"It was very out of the box for us. It was a 1.4-megawatt solar project," he said. "We spent a lot of time preparing to pull the trigger, and it's definitely something we're very proud of.

That project could lead to more solar projects from Piedmont in the future, Williams explained. However, he said those decisions will ultimately come down to incentives and the pricing of solar panels.

"There's going to be a lot of factors that go into it. I wouldn't say that we will be in the solar business going ahead, but we will certainly evaluate future opportunities," he said.

Williams said some of the challenges associated with solar projects include educating the decision makers so that they understand what it takes to have a solar building. Another challenge is trying to grasp and guide people through the process of tax initiatives on both the local and national level.

In the past five years, Piedmont has also worked hard to increase its Energy Star statistics.

"Not only what's been benchmarked, but also from our label percentage within the portfolio. That also goes for LEED, too. We're ramping up to try to increase those statistics," Williams said.

When it comes to technology and how it relates to sustainability, Williams said that technology has come a long way in areas such as lighting, building management systems and sensors in garages.

"There are just a lot of things that have taken the person out of the process a little bit," he said.

Williams added that sustainability intiatives are resonating with shareholders as they've become more interested in putting their money into companies that have an interest in sustainability and some type of social responsibility.