Workers installing solar panels on the roof of Kokatat’s California factory.

In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, water sports apparel manufacture Kokatat has installed a large solar array to power its factory in Arcata, California.

The company, best known for its water-proof outwear for kayaking, canoeing, sailing and other damp sports estimates the solar array will produce 16% of the electricity used in its factory.

“Like many gear manufacturers, we make products that rely on petroleum-based synthetic materials that can’t be replaced by natural materials,” said Kit Mann, the project manager at Kokatat for the solar array installation. “You can’t make a dry top out of cotton. So the solar array made sense as a different way to offset our petroleum use.”

The solar panels, which can generate up to 35,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, were mounted on the factory roof late last year and began powering the company’s lights, sewing machines and seam sealers last Friday.

Mann said the total cost for the system was between $175,000 and $200,000 and that it would save the company about $6,000 per year in electricity costs. He said the system is warrantied for 10 years but would probably last between 20 and 30 years.

“Given the cost, it won’t save us much if any money,” Mann said. But “it’s part of our ethic to reduce our environmental impact.”

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