City Market goes solar

Interested in furthering its mission to promote sustainability, City Market recently became a local leader in solar energy.City Market began its installation of 136 solar panels on the store roof this past January.”It’s a nice way for us to support renewable energy, not just for our customers, but also for the local electric utility,” Chris Lyon, assistant operations manager of City Market said.City Market will be selling their solar energy directly back to Burlington Electric, he said.”We will be selling the electricity back directly to Burlington Electric. So in a sense, we become a power electric station that generates renewable energy for the city of Burlington,” City Market Operations Manager Patrick Burns said.According to their website, City Market is the first business in Vermont to directly sell electricity gathered from solar panels to Burlington Electric’s energy grid.This process is known as a “Feed-in Tariff,” which is a Vermont legislative policy that requires electric companies to pay a premium for energy produced from renewable sources.”[Vermont] became the first state in the nation to offer a “Feed-in Tariff” which is basically providing much higher than the market rate of electricity that they will pay us for generating,” Lyon said.The solar energy sold to Burlington Electric from City Market will bring in “just shy of 12 cents [per kilowatt hour]” for the store, Burns said. “When the panels are operating at peak output they will generate 31 Kilowatts of energy. On cloudy days they won’t generate at that level,” he said.”I believe that we are going to be the largest solar installation in Burlington definitely, and close to it in Chittenden County,” Burns said.The solar panels will produce three percent of the electricity needed to power the grocery store, he said.Jessie Ruth Corkins, a sophomore at UVM, said she is not completely satisfied with the energy output expected from the solar project.”As a City Market shopper, [the solar project] is pretty awesome, but it’s just really a drop in the bucket in terms of really covering their electrical needs,” Corkins said. “To only be covering three percent is a drop in the bucket.”It seems small, but every little bit helps, Burns said.”Three percent doesn’t sound like a lot. But you know, in a grocery store with freezers, with refrigeration that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it becomes significant,” he said.Walter Poleman, UVM Faculty Director of the GreenHouse RLC, said he firmly supports City Market’s solar panel project.”It’s great. I think individual businesses and residences can be proactive in reducing their energy usage, partly because it will save them money and become more self-sufficient, more localized, more connected in with free energy sources,” Poleman said.The response from the Burlington community has been great, Burns said.”We have had really excited people outside as they walk by and see the panels being lifted,” Lyon said.  “We’ve had people on a very basic level question why we would do it, and beyond the social part of it, it’s economically viable for us.”With the support of the Burlington community, the solar panel project is able to happen, Lyon said.”Too many people are looking at the short term, the next year, the next quarter. We know that it will provide us something for the next 25 to 30 years that you just can’t get from anyone else out there. It makes sense,” he said.