As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris approaches, Local First Arizona is looking at how climate change affects local businesses in our state. Strides are being made across the country to convert communities to cleaner power sources and Arizona’s abundant sunshine makes solar an excellent energy source. We recently took a look at some Local First Arizona members across the state that have incorporated solar. Antigone Books, Tucson Antigone Books describes themselves as a “zany, independent bookstore” that also happens to be the first 100% solar powered bookstore in the country. Co-owners Trudy Mills and Kate Randall have been passionate about sustainability and creating a healthy environment through clean energy for years, but assumed the initial financial and effort investment was too high to be feasible for their independent bookstore. Inspired by the model of a neighboring small business who had recently transitioned to 100% solar energy, Mills approached Technicians For Sustainability (TFS), a Tucson-based solar company, at Cyclovia, a community event in Tucson, in early 2011 to learn more about what it would take to make the switch. She learned that by working with TFS and taking advantage of federal and state tax incentives, both the effort and the financial burdens could be drastically reduced. Antigone Books was inspired to get started.
TFS made the process exceedingly simple for Antigone Books and installed a 13.7 kilowatt grid-connected solar system consisting of 45 SunPower high-efficiency solar modules. The system produces 2,059 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, which translates to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 4,000 pounds and conserves 890 gallons of water per month.
What’s more? The system paid for itself in reduced energy costs within 3-4 years and now saves Antigone Books about $3,000 a year. They have received a lot of positive feedback and have customers who attribute their patronage to Antigone’s renewable energy dedication. Mills’ response to why local businesses should use renewable energy? “Well, it is good for the earth which it seems to me we need to have in order to even DO business, right?” We agree!
Children’s Museum of Phoenix The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is a creative and interactive museum designed to engage the minds, muscles, and imaginations of children and the grown-ups who care about them. In 2012, they installed an 85 kilowatt-hour solar array over some of their parking spots and shade structures over their exterior doors. The solar panels, installed by SKY Engineering Inc., generate approximately 142,700 kWh annually and save the Children’s Museum around $15,700 in utility costs per year.
The Children’s Museum installed solar panels to stay true to their mission of being “green.” The panels also provide an additional way for children to learn about sustainability and how they can take an active role in protecting the environment. They serve the functional purpose of creating aesthetically pleasing shade structures for parking and reducing their overall energy costs by an estimated 15%. The Museum is able to tie the environmental benefits of solar panels into their educational programs, which promote the intentional and creative re-use of materials. In their regular programs, children are encouraged to create art through repurposing old materials that would otherwise be put in the trash. They also incorporate sustainable practices by using earth friendly soaps, recycling, and having a garden outside of the museum.
Page Springs Cellars, Cornville Page Springs Cellars is a family-owned winery that is dedicated to and succeeding in growing the demand for high-quality wine Arizona wines. Situated along a picturesque stretch of Oak Creek in the lush Verde Valley and owned by a river ecologist, the use of alternative energy was a natural fit for Page Springs.
Page Springs’ solar array, installed by Harmon Solar, doubles as shaded parking for customers and a source of clean energy for the winery and tasting room operations. The panels provide 86% of the total electricity they consume, which means they are able to pay 86% less on their electricity bills. On the sunniest days, Page Springs is actually able to sell energy back to the grid because they produce more than they need. The solar power provides electricity for cooling in the cellars, air conditioning and lighting for the tasting room and offices. In addition to their use of renewable energy, Page Springs composts their grape solids, re-uses barrels as long as possible, recycles all glassware, and grows vegetables to use in their tasting room.
Tom Vitron, Marketing Manager for Page Springs, says that a lot of people notice and comment on the solar panels in the parking lot, indicating that customers care about what their winemakers do for the environment. For Page Springs, using renewable energy is a way to help reduce the impact on climate while enhancing their business.