Northwest Arkansas Eureka Pizza Chain Prepares to Install Solar Panels

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, May. 27, 2013 12:00 am  

Eureka Pizza owner Rolf Wilkin is having solar panels installed at the Leverett Avenue location in Fayetteville. It could help cut his energy use by between 30 and 50 percent. (Photo by Ryan Miller)

How exactly does the solar panel save money?

Arkansas is what Gerrard describes as a “net metering state.” That means any unused kilowatts of energy generated by the solar panels are funneled into the energy grid. In essence, the meter measuring usage can spin backwards.

Eureka Pizza, for example, would be credited for any stored solar energy created before the store opens. The surplus then is subtracted from total kilowatts used during the day. For an operation like Eureka Pizza that can accommodate a single catering request of up to 1,000 pizzas, there’s a need to trim energy costs.

“If you’re making more energy than you’re using, you’re essentially putting money into the [power company] bank until the sun goes down and you start to use those credits up,” Gerrard said.

Installation at Wilkin’s store should take less than two days and then he can start seeing the potential savings. At the end of the year Wilkin, or any business working through the incentive plan offered by Swepco, gets a check back based on a formula that measures solar energy use. A similar program is available for residential users as well, Gerrard said.

Solar technology has been an option for about 40 years, but it has become more practical thanks to improved technology, ease of installation and the potential for federal, state and local rebates.

That’s what hooked Wilkin. He likes the idea of making the environmentally friendly choice and said he’s considering a way to showcase real-time solar production and energy saved on a display in the store.

But as a businessman, the money saved makes solar power even more appealing.

“Environmentally, it makes sense,” Wilkin said. “And it definitely makes sense financially.”



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