Swiss Re, a global reinsurer based in Zurich, broke ground on what will be the largest solar array in Westchester in front of a crowd of about 200 Wednesday at its American headquarters in Armonk.
Once its complete in Spring 2017, the 7,700 photovoltaic panels in the 2 megawatt array will provide 60 percent of the power to the 700 employees in the office.
The Armonk array continues on energy efficiency initiatives by the company worldwide. Swiss Re says it already receives 85 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and has installed solar energy facilities in its offices in Switzerland, Italy and the U.K.
“We know that our mission is to make the world more resilient,” Swiss Re Americas CEO and president Eric Smith said at the groundbreaking. “And one of the ways we do that is that we recognized many, many decades ago that climate change was something that was a real threat to our society and it helps to make our world less resilient and more challenged.”
The company is investing $7 million in the array on 10 acres of land. The company expects it can save $500,000 per year in energy costs and make its money back within seven years.
Along with IKEA, Swiss Re is a founding member of RE100, a group of corporations committed to achieving 100 percent use of renewable energy that counts Facebook, General Motors, Bank of America, Apple and Coca-Cola among its 81 members.
A rendering of the planned solar panel array at Swiss Re Americas Armonk campus.
For Swiss Re, which helps protect insurers from catastrophic losses, fighting against climate change can be seen, in part, as a business decision. As pointed out in a report posted on its website last year, climate change can lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of dangerous and costly natural catastrophes such as floods, storms and drought. With that in mind, the company has identified four pillars of a climate change strategy: advancing its own understanding of climate change risks, developing products and services to adapt to those risks, raising awareness of climate change risks among clients and the public and tackling its own carbon footprint.
Swiss Re is the second largest reinsurance company in the world. It first landed in Armonk in 1999, following a two-year battle that pitted New York against Connecticut to land the company and its hundreds of employees. Swiss Re eventually picked the wooded 127-acre property overlooking the Kensico Reservoir.
The panels will be installed by New York City-based EnterSolar.
The North Castle Town Board approved a special use permit for the project in July. Swiss Re expects to have the steel beams for the panels set up in two weeks, with the array going online in May 2017.