Solar FAQs

Energizing Our Community

The Merc Co+op is in the process of planning a solar project that is unlike anything that exists within our community. Through a full rooftop array, two solar covered carports and a solar covered patio, we will install over 200 kilowatts of solar panels which will provide 29% of our energy each year.

FAQs

Why is the co-op installing solar?

The two greatest opportunities to improve our environmental impact are through a reduction of energy consumption and a transition to renewable energy. Due to the continuous operation of refrigeration systems, grocery stores consume significant amounts of energy. With the cost of conventional energy increasing by 7-10% each year, the need to reduce consumption is more important than ever.

What are the benefits to the co-op?

The co-op will offset 29% of our energy thereby avoiding 16.5 million pounds of pollution* and save us $1.8 million in energy costs.* In addition, the solar carports will be an incredibly distinctive addition to the Hillcrest Shopping Center and to the Lawrence community as a whole, which we hope will attract attention to the store and to the importance of environmental sustainability.

What are the benefits to owners and shoppers?

The two solar powered carports will offer 32 spaces with partial protection from the elements and shade from the hot summer sun. A solar-powered car charging station will be available for use. And, the solar covered patio will offer partial shade for outdoor diners.

What can shoppers anticipate regarding construction?

Portions of our parking lot will be under construction for up to four weeks in order to place the carports’ concrete footings. They will be constructed one at a time to reduce disruption to parking. During this time we will make every effort to ensure safety and to communicate what to expect.

How will this change the flow of traffic in the parking lot? 

With the exception of potential detours during the construction period, the traffic flow at the co-op and Hillcrest Shopping Center will not be affected.

Will the solar-covered carports affect the number of parking spaces?

No. The carports will cover the current 32 parking spaces without affecting their use. In addition, our lot currently offers four wheelchair accessible spaces in these same lanes. Once construction of the carports is complete, we will determine where the best location for these spaces will be.

Will large vehicles, such as vans, be able to park under the carports?

Yes, they will. The high end of the carports will be over 12 feet tall with the low end at 10 feet tall.

How will the parking lot be lit?

In order to construct the carports, four existing lights would be removed and replaced with energy efficient, solar powered LED lights that are located within the carports.

Who is the co-op working with to install the solar project?

Lawrence’s Cromwell Solar was selected for their experience with large scale project planning, installation and maintenance, as well as their alignment with the co-op’s Ends.

How is the co-op paying for the solar project?

The majority of the cost will be financed by a lease with Mid America Bank with the co-op using cash reserves to build the carport structure. Mid America has six years of experience financing solar projects and uses solar energy in all of their own branches. Their leasing program is unique to the industry and includes an annual option to purchase the array at a fair market value after the first five years. Once the lease is paid, the co-op will own the system.

How long is the project expected to last?

This summer, the project is in the permit and site plan stages. Construction will begin mid-September and end mid-November.  The total duration is estimated at eight weeks, with one portion of that time for the roof installation and the other for the carports and patio.

Questions?

Please contact Rita York Hennecke, General Manager, at gm@themerc.coop or 785-843-8544.