Grocer Turns to Solar for Savings
A New Hampshire grocer is using tips and rebates provided by his co-op’s energy advisor to control his utility costs and develop one of the largest privately owned solar projects in the Granite State.
“I make recommendations on the choices presenting the most consistent savings and greatest energy efficiency,” said Bill Vecchio, business development executive at the Plymouth-based New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, the only co-op in the state.
Vecchio has reviewed the energy needs of Colebrook grocer Guy LaPerle at least twice each year since 2005, as part of the co-op’s key accounts program. In 2010, with the co-op’s encouragement, LaPerle successfully sought a federal grant to cover the costs of an energy audit for his store.
A consulting engineer conducted the audit and concluded that modifications to the building shell with upgraded insulation and air sealing were not economically viable.
“So we refocused on other measures,” said Vecchio, and that’s where solar came in.
When the possibility of using solar panels to meet some of the store’s energy needs came up, LaPerle was all ears. He considered whether photovoltaic panels could pay off in a reasonable period, given weather patterns less than 10 miles south of the Canadian border.
The co-op provided as much as 25 percent of the costs, or up to $20,000 for construction and installation. Rebates from the state and federal tax credits were also available, and a local contractor was hired to install the panels in an empty field just beyond the store’s parking lot.
“I believe in being green and advancing the field of renewable energy,” said LaPerle, adding that the system, rated at 36 kilowatt-hour capacity, should reduce his annual electricity cost by about $5,000. The grocer expects to recoup his costs within eight to 11 years.
LaPerle has taken advantage of more than $44,000 in rebates and incentives recommended by the co-op over the past seven years, and his list of successful energy-efficiency projects continues to grow.
Some of the other energy-efficiency improvements include upgraded lighting throughout the store, as well as high-efficiency electric motors used in walk-in coolers and display cases.
“You’ve got to look at the big picture,” LaPerle said. “I couldn’t afford not to do it.”
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