Solar Press Release

Released May 16, 2017

The Merc Co+op is Going Solar

Community-owned grocery store to install 200 kW of solar energy

This summer, The Merc Co+op, 901 Iowa, will embark on what will be the city’s largest solar energy project to date. Through a full rooftop array, two solar covered carports and a solar covered patio, the community-owned grocery store will install 688 high performance solar panels to provide 29% of their energy each year.

This project allows the co-op to harness our most reliable and sustainable renewable energy resource: the sun. The store’s roof will house the majority of the panels. Comprised of solar panels mounted on steel beams, the two solar covered carports will offer 32 spaces with partial protection from the elements and shade from the hot summer sun. An electric vehicle charging station will be installed for shopper’s use. And, a solar covered patio will offer partial shade for outdoor diners. All together the panels will produce 297,690 Kilowatt hours energy each year, enough to power 22 homes.

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. 

“When our co-op purchased this building in 2012, we did so with the intention of making it a model of environmental sustainability,” said Barbara Clark, Board President. “This project directly demonstrates our commitment to our Ends - of building a community based on hospitality, generosity and care for the environment - and to the value our co-op brings to the community.”

The social implications of transitioning 29% of the store’s energy to solar is great, but the environmental and economic impact is even greater. Over the course of 25 years, The Merc Co+op will avoid 16.5 million pounds of pollution and save an estimated $1.8 million in energy costs.

“Environmental sustainability is important to our community of owners. Since 2012, the co-op has reduced electricity consumption by 30% through LED lighting and preventative maintenance. Our planned solar project leverages that work and further minimizes our carbon footprint,” said Rita York Hennecke, General Manager. “It’s time that we-as individuals and business leaders-do more than talk the talk, and take action to make a difference.”

The Merc Co+op’s Management and the Board of Directors began exploring solar in late 2016. Cromwell Solar, 615 Vermont, was selected for their experience with large scale project planning, installation and maintenance, as well as their alignment with the co-op’s Ends.

“With energy output warrantied 25-30 years and an expected lifespan of 40+ years, the solar we are installing at the co-op will reap huge financial and environmental benefits for decades to come,” said Aron Cromwell, CEO, Cromwell Solar. “And, the solar carport and patio cover will allow people to see solar up close and will feature some absolutely astounding see-through solar panels.”

For more information on this project, contact: Rita York Hennecke, General Manager, at or Valerie Taylor Richardson, Marketing Manager, at or 785-843-8544.

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