Warner Brothers Studios

Burbank, CA

Reducing the studio's electricity costs by over $5 million

Overview

Warner Bros. Entertainment employs a variety of techniques and green practices in an effort to entertain the world in a sustainable way with lofty goals of conserving the Earth’s resources. Since the inception of its Environmental Initiatives department over 16 years ago, Warner Bros. Entertianment has a robust recylcing program, a fleet of hybrid vehicles, uses efficient lighting technology and is the first entertainment studio to build a LEED Silver certified structure (sound stage 23) and has the largest solar array in the industry as well as in the City of Burbank.

Installation

The Warner Bros. install is composed of two buildings located adjacent to one another covering just over two acres of roof space. Bldg 44 or “The Mill” (now a studio store) is the first install we completed and was 537.9kW DC utilizing 1,200 Sharp 224’s,  1,170 Sharp 230’s and two Satcon 225 inverters on one building. It was spread over eleven separate sections of saw-tooth roof. The building was being reroofed and we coordinated the installation of racking with the progress of completed sections of shingling. Due to very little open real estate on the studio lots, we prefabbed off site and needed to crane the modules on weekends. The craning was slow and tedious due to the narrow access roads and the many obstacles on the crowded lot, but the natural roof pitch helped speed up the installation so modules could be moved into place quickly. One of the benefits of working on a non-film stage structure is that we had unimpeded roof  and interior access, and we did not need a contingency for demobilization in case of quiet times on the set.

This was not the case when we worked on the second install location, Stage 23, a 113.4kW DC system utilizing 540 Sanyo-210W modules and a Satcon 100 inverter.  The studios have a general hiatus time of May to August but we were in design for the early portion of the hiatus schedule. Because this building was new construction and was the first LEED sound stage, we needed to spend extra time in the engineering phases. The unique issues that we worked around were the barrel roof that had owner installed 2” standoffs and presented us with an array tilt angle dilemma. While the roof structure was strong, we used a modified version of the SM2 racking and the difficulties getting to a consensus on the added loads pushed the installation well into the middle of summer, but we were able to finish the construction before filming began.

Both projects are visible by passing traffic on Forest Lawn Drive.

Benefits

Warner Bros. Entertainment wanted to own the solar power generation asset and see 100% of the savings from the energy production. Paying out of pocket, Warner Bros. was able to take advantage of the 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) from the federal government and the California Solar Initiative (CSI) state rebate administered through Burbank Water & Power. This combination of incentives saved the studio approximately 90% of the total system cost. Together, these two installations will produce 1,043,200 killowatt-hours (kWhs) per year and reduce the studio’s electricity costs by at least $5 million over the expected 30-40 years life of the solar power installation.

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