Sustainability is relevant to everything we do at The Merc Co+op. From the products we source to the organizations we support to our recycling program, concern for our environment and our community is always top of mind. We partner with nearly three dozen local growers, champion organic, and provide a space for community growth in both our classroom as well as the Growing Food Growing Health Gardens. See how your co-op is working towards making our planet a healthier place.
Your Solar-Powered Co-op
In August 2018, The Merc Co+op completed the Lawrence’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 installed 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 houses the majority of the panels. Comprised of solar panels mounted on steel beams, the two solar covered carports 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 pergola offers 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 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 installed 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 features some absolutely astounding see-through solar panels.”
Check out this video of Phase 1 of our solar project by Cromwell Solar. Our rooftop houses 380 solar panels!
Solar Installation Phases
Locally Crafted Patio Pergola
The patio pergola is a beautiful combination of traditional and future technologies. It will hold 16 of the 688 solar panels and offer diners partial shade and an up close view of solar. Handcrafted in Missouri and milled from Kansas trees, it will be constructed from White Oak - an excellent material as it requires little maintenance and ages well, darkening over time. The building method utilizes timber frame construction, an old world framing method that is extremely strong and uses no metal fasteners. With this construction, hand-cut mortis and tenon joints are made to very large White Oak timbers. The structure is built off-site, then reassembled on-site, where the joints are pinned together with wood dowels. As the wood dries, the joints shrink and tighten, creating a long-lasting, natural structure.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.