BriarPatch Co-op’s Solar Array In Position To Payback In Under 5 Years!

BriarPatch Co-op’s Solar Array In Position To Payback In Under 5 Years!

Photo: Chris Maher, General Manager of the BriarPatch Co-op pictured next to the array in front of the store.

Grocery stores generate very high energy usage. When you consider the ongoing lighting, technology, and warming and cooling in every department, the bills can be astronomical.

Such was the case with BriarPatch Food Co-op in Grass Valley.

“Grocery stores have enormous demand,” said General Manager Chris Maher. “The cost of running refrigeration 24/7 is outrageous.”

BriarPatch operates under a series of ends policies, similar to a mission statement. They are committed to being conscientious stewards of the land, always considering social, environmental and financial impact when we make business decisions. “We call it a triple bottom line,” Maher said.

It is this commitment that brought them to installing solar.
Because of the business demand they were experiencing around 2012, they started planning for a major parking expansion. “We were looking at the whole site, and the best use of every inch of land,” Maher said. “Within the context of expanded parking, we had the option of installing covered solar parking.”

While data is continuously being monitored and collected, and will be updated in a future report, Maher said there are significant energy savings since solar was installed.

“We absolutely see savings,” he said. “Our production for the first year was approximately half of our normal demand.”

Full circle to Cal Solar

When the BriarPatch board came up with a basic concept of the large structure with a walkway and the idea for the solar project, they looked at different designs they could pursue. They selected several local, regional and national solar companies, and used a rigorous vetting process that included factors such as the company’s experience, approach, and commentary on BriarPatch’s idea. “We were really pleased with the presentation of Cal Solar at the get-go,” Maher said. “We were hoping for that result, but committed to the best people for the job.”

“While it wasn’t our first carport, it remains the largest carport we have done to date,” said Martin Webb, commercial sales and design manager for Cal Solar. “What was unique was working within the context of a much larger parking lot remodel project. This meant not just coordinating our schedule with the builder of the carport, but also being on the job site with multiple contractors and tradesmen who were also busy with their scopes of work. The architect on the entire remodel was like a conductor and we were the ‘solar section’ of the orchestra.”

Another unique and challenging aspect was the fact that the BriarPatch is a very busy grocery store and community hub.
“In order to minimize the disruption to their customers and their daily supply chain of food deliveries Cal Solar had install crews working outside of normal business hours,” Webb said. “It ended up being a lucky convergence really,” Maher said. “And working with Cal Solar was very easy.”

The Briar Patch array under construction in 2016.