SALISBURY, Md. — Perdue Inc. celebrated on Oct. 7 after completing one of the largest commercially owned solar-power systems in the eastern United States. An open house at the site was attended by many Maryland dignitaries, including Gov. Martin O’Malley and state and local elected officials. Executives from project partners Perdue, Standard Solar Inc. and Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES) in addition to business leaders attended the event to observe the installation's 5,040 solar panels.

The Salisbury installation will supply electricity to adjacent Perdue corporate headquarters and is the final phase of nearly 12,000 panels installed at two Perdue facilities.

“Completion of this project is another step forward in our commitment to environmental responsibility,” said Jim Perdue, chairman, Perdue Inc. “Stewardship is one of Perdue’s core values, so this is a perfect fit for the way we do business.”

The panels are owned by WGES and were installed by Standard Solar. Perdue will purchase green electricity generated by the solar panels at guaranteed prices. The first phase of the installation is in Bridgeville, Del., and was completed in August.

Both systems will generate a combined average of 3,700-megawatt hours of electricity each year, or the amount of power used by 340 typical US homes. While at peak production, the panels will produce as much as 90 percent of the electrical demand for each Perdue facility.

“We are pleased to begin powering our operations with clean, renewable energy while lowering our energy costs, demonstrating that environmental responsibility is also good business,” said Steve Schwalb, Perdue’s vice president of environmental sustainability.

Schwalb estimated the clean electricity from the solar panels will reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tons per year, the equivalent of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from 300,000 gallons of gasoline per year, or nearly 4.5 million gallons through the life of the 15-year contract.

Perdue is engaged in other alternative energy initiatives, including a biogas-to-energy project at its Cromwell, Ky., poultry processing facility and a biomass burning installation at its Cofield, NC, soybean processing plant. The company is also currently renovating its corporate office to the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards.

Ten years ago, Perdue built the nation’s first commercial poultry litter-processing plant, the only process that is verifiably removing excess nutrients from the Chesapeake Bay watershed.