The Food City in Piney Flats has taken another step forward in its efforts to “go green” with the completed installation of 243 rooftop solar panels, which was announced at a news conference Thursday.
In late 2008-09, Steve Smith, president and CEO of Food City, said the company began to explore its enegy conservation options and formed a committee known through the company as “Eco.”
“The purpose of this committee is to really focus on the proper usage ... with the overall goal of lowering our carbon footprint and lowering the amount of electricity that we use,” Smith said.
With other “green” initiatives happening within the stores such as energy efficient glass doors on beverage cases, upgraded refrigeration fan motors and converting in-store lighting into a more efficient model, Smith said the solar panels were a first for the company.
“This is our first foray into solar energy here in Piney Flats and we’re proud of the partnership we have with the Johnson City Power Board and the TVA,” Smith said. “Some of the incentives makes this a very feasible project for this location.”
Reducing harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide were some of the incentives that Food City deemed important to its environmental cause, Smith said.
“It’s the equivalent of taking 255 cars off the road or planting almost 400 acres of trees,” Smith said. “Our goal is to leave our community a better place in which we found it and we’re extremely proud to have our first solar panel project up and running.”
The use of solar panels is also a money saver for the company and will allow them to get payback on the system, Smith said.
With its rooftop installation, the Piney Flats Solar Platform as a unit is a 51.9 kilowatt solar system and is expected to produce around 63,000 kilowatts per year. In the Johnson City Power Board’s area, this system will be the biggest.
The company that installed the panels was the 6-year-old Nashville-based group LightWave Solar Electric LLC. Branching out with an office and team in Johnson City, LightWave Solar turned out to be the best fit for Food City’s solar plans when they were in the first stages of planning, Smith said.
“They researched a lot of companies and ... we thought LightWave really made a good proposal,” Smith said. Being a local company and being price-competitive were definitely selling points Smith said on choosing LightWave to install the panels.
John Lewis, LightWave Solar’s operations manager, said he was happy to be involved in Food City’s solar initiative.
“It’s nice to get the attention and it’s nice that we can participate with businesses like Food City,” Lewis said.
Lewis said in the six years LightWave Solar has been in operation, the company has doubled in growth and revenue. Being in Johnson City for only three of those years, Lewis said he hopes to reach out to more local businesses in the area.
While the Piney Flats store is the guinea pig for a fully functioning solar powered Food City, Smith said solar expansion to other stores is still a possibility, but not right away.
Representatives from LightWave Solar, the Planning Department of Johnson City, the Johnson City Power Board and Food City company officials were present for the news conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony.