Riverside Meals to put in photo voltaic panels on roof | Articles | Information
ComEd’s power infrastructure in Riverside has been a problem for both homeowners and businesses in recent years. Despite the utility’s efforts to back up the local system, at least one company is looking for other ways to keep the lights on if the power goes out unexpectedly.
Sometime this spring, Riverside Foods, 48 E. Burlington St., are starting a project to install a 28-kilowatt solar panel on the eastern half of the roof, which will use enough energy to provide around 10 percent of the electricity used in the foodstuffs.The business must run daily and have enough battery storage to prevent a power outage to survive more than a day.
“It started a few years ago with a desire to make our energy use more sustainable,” said Peter Boutsikakis, co-owner of Riverside Foods. “We also have a rough experience with [ComEd’s power] Infrastructure, and we wondered what we could do beyond that [natural] gas powered generators. “
Perhaps the last straw was a power outage after a strong Derecho storm that blew through the area in August 2020. The store was without power for more than a day, forcing the store to rent a refrigerated trailer to store perishable food. It wasn’t the business’s first experience of such a failure.
“In 2020 we had several outages of varying degrees,” said Boutsikakis. “Most were for a few hours, but the one in [August] was more than a day and we lost product and business. It was a tremendous amount of work to recover. “
So Riverside Foods turned to Project Green Environmental Solutions, a Forest Park-based company that provides companies with everything from energy assessments to contract services to improve energy efficiency.
The company also has expertise in securing grants for sustainable energy projects under ComEd’s small business energy efficiency program. Project Green worked with Riverside Foods about a decade ago to improve all lighting using the ComEd grant program.
According to Boutsikakis, the last conversation we had with Project Green began with questions about retrofitting older coolers rather than simply replacing them. That discussion led to something more ambitious, solar power.
Boutsikakis did not reveal how much the business is investing in the solar panel, but said the decision made financial sense. Panels will have a useful life of 20 to 25 years and the savings in energy costs will bring that investment back within 10 years.
In addition to ComEd’s incentives, the company can also benefit from federal and state tax incentives for the implementation of solar energy.
The solar panel will be on the eastern half of the roof, which will be supported by metal trusses instead of the wood that supports the older western half. Boutsikakis is particularly pleased that the solar panels are skid-mounted and not attached to the roof structure itself, allowing the panels to be moved for future roof maintenance.
Tom Odena, who owns his own company, Hummingbird Electric, but also acts as the oversight electrician for Project Green, said the Riverside Foods project will incorporate the solar system into a natural gas generator that will not only increase power to the solar system in the event of outages but also be able to charge the battery so that the company can survive long power outages in the future.
This will be the first commercial solar array to be installed in Riverside, and Odena hopes it will spur other small and medium-sized businesses to look for sustainable energy solutions. What can help the most is an innovative funding option called “tempo finance,” where companies work with a municipality or county to issue a bond that is repaid over a period of years through an item on the company’s property tax bill.
“There has been a lot of interest, but the problem is that once they hear how much capital is involved upfront, they’re not that interested,” said Odena. “This type of financing makes sense for small and medium-sized businesses.”
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