Owning a business is expensive and energy is often a big part of the cost of doing business.
Three years after installing solar panels on the roof of their Hood River, Oregon store, Rosauers Supermarket is on its way to saving money, providing sustainable energy, and maintaining customer approval.
In 2011, Rosauers installed a 15,000-square-foot solar panel system—enough to cover three small city lots. The panels cover about 60 percent of the store’s roof. The Hood River store was first of Rosauers 22 stores to install solar panels and first in the Oregon to use Oregon’s Solar Incentive Program.
“The local reaction has been incredible!” said Rosauers Supermarkets Director and Facilities Manager, Ken Groh. “Positive comments about the solar panels during our re-grand opening have continued to the present time.”
Positive feedback may be attributed to how Rosauers keeps customers informed about the system’s performance.
The dashboard. They installed a large in-store solar dashboard on a flat screen monitor near the checkout area. A dashboard, like a car dashboard, gives performance information. Rosauers solar dashboard gives updated information on how much energy the solar panels produce hourly, weekly and monthly – and with historical comparisons. “Our customers enjoy looking at the dashboard,” said Groh. Customer satisfaction is just one of the benefits.
How much energy. On average, U.S. grocery stores use 52.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per square foot annually and pay upwards of $200,000 in energy costs, Energy Star reports. The Rosauers Hood River store is just over 50,000 square feet. Groh says the solar panels currently produce about 98,000 kWh per/year.
We can guess that the panels generate around 4 percent of supplemented energy, which amount to around $80,000 per year savings.
Solar power is one of the fastest growing alternate energy sources available. After all, sunlight is free and will continue to be so until the sun burns itself out.
The payback. Groh declined to say how much the initial investment was, but he says the panels will pay for themselves in 10 years. To some, that may seem like a long time to wait for return on investment, but as electricity prices increase, solar electric systems will save the store more money over time.
Federal tax incentives in tax credits help pay for commercial systems. Solar panels are likely to maintain their value. Once they purchased, the operation and maintenance costs are low.
Solar Nation installed Rosauers system. Solar Nation is no longer in business. Hire Electric in The Dalles now does any maintenance on the solar panels.
More energy saving. Besides solar panels, Rosauers recycles paper and plastics, has energy management systems in their stores, and recycles their deli and produce waste. The store buys energy efficient lamps and LED lights.