Hardware store goes solar

4:53 PM, Jul 1, 2010   |    comments
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DAMARISCOTTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Businesses all over Maine are taking steps to cut costs and save energy. Damariscotta Hardware, a family-owned store in Damariscotta, is taking very big steps.

The business is currently installing a huge array of solar panels on the roof. The 301 photo-voltaic panels are expected to generate nearly 70% of the store's electricity.

Ray Montana of Maine Energy Performance Solutions, who designed and is installing the system, estimates it will allow the hardware store to "lock in" electric costs of about three to five cents per kilowatt for the next 25 years. That would be far less than the store pays now.

Owner Rob Gardiner and his siblings say they typically spend around $14,000 per year on electricity. They do admit the large solar system is costly -- Gardiner says the whole project will cost nearly $380,000. He says tax credits, a small grant from Efficiency Maine and accelerated depreciation will cover some of that expense.

They are also waiting to hear if the business will qualify for a federal grant from the Rural Energy for America Program, known as "REAP". If they receive that grant, Gardiner says their payback time for the whole project will be less than ten years. Without the grant, he says the project still makes financial sense, although with a longer payback.

"Once we laid the math out on the table," says Gardiner, "like my accountant said, why wouldn't you do it?"

WEB: Maine Energy Performance Solutions

Damariscotta Hardware

Solar panels are not the only change the business has made. Last winter they also installed a high tech, wood gasification boiler. Gardiner says that wood boiler now provides all the heat for the store, and produces minimal emissions. He says it's all part aimed at making the family business as energy-independent as possible.

Gardiner says saving money on energy over time will allow them to update other aspects of the business, possibly hire more employees and also provide employee benefits, such as health insurance.


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