Seaside Country Store gets sun-powered

Good things come to those who wait, and Stephen and Amy Vickers waited more than a year to get their 120-solar-panel system installed at the Seaside Country Store. The process started 18 months ago and, as luck would have it, even planning that far ahead, they just made the cutoff for a 50 percent cost-reduction program offered by the State of Delaware.

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: Seaside Country Store recently had 120 solar panels installed on the roof of the Fenwick Island store. The figures show that the store will have initial saving of up to $13,000 a year.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
Seaside Country Store recently had 120 solar panels installed on the roof of the Fenwick Island store. The figures show that the store will have initial saving of up to $13,000 a year.

“When we started, there was still a considerable amount of money left (in the Green Energy Fund),” said Stephen Vickers. “With more and more people signing up, within a day or so after we signed the papers, the State issued a change from the 50 percent reduction to 25 percent.”

Drivers heading south on Coastal Highway might get a glimpse of the system on the roof of the Seaside Country Store, but they’ll probably only see it if they are looking for it. Eventually, though, shoppers will be able to see the precise environmental impact of the system displayed on a small flat-screen TV inside the store.

“Flexera has said they’ll be installing a small TV screen to explain what’s going on,” said Stephen Vickers. “It’ll be in a simple way, in layman’s terms – like how many trees are being saved, etc.”

The system is one of the most technologically advanced flat-panel systems available, said Vickers. It is manufactured by Solyndra and was installed by Harbeson, Del.-based Flexera.

Vickers explained that, since the state’s energy rate cap was removed, the store’s energy costs have steadily risen. Additionally, he said being charged a peak demand rate has sky-rocketed his costs.

“When I start up in the morning, everything is running. Then it drops down. But that’s what they charge me – for the 15 seconds when it is at its ‘peak demand.’ It’s tremendously unjust and should be illegal,” Vickers asserted.

He added that the energy costs of running a 22,000-square-foot building, coupled with their existing commitment to be socially and environmentally responsible, aided in their decision-making to cut their costs and create clean energy themselves.

“Since we bought the store, we put in a recycling Dumpster for the cardboard, we recycle the packaging peanuts and plastics, and have really cut our waste costs down. We have two young boys and are trying to set an example for them and to other people in the community,” he explained.

With the new solar system, Seaside Country Store will reduce its carbon footprint by 32 million metric tons per year and will create 28,000 kilowatts of clean energy per year. This will give them about $13,000 a year in energy cost savings and, as the system cost gets paid down, it will become more and more effective in saving them money.

The panels sit on a white roof and, because of their advanced design, sun can also reflect off the tops and bottoms of the panels. Vickers said traditional flat solar panels would have created too heavy a load on the roof, and the way these panels all connect together gives them added strength against high winds.

Vickers emphasized that, even if they hadn’t gotten the full 50 percent rebate from the State of Delaware, they still would have made solar energy a priority.

“It’s still huge, with the combined federal government incentive of 30 percent and the state’s 25 percent. It’s still 55 percent, and I would still wholly recommend it,” he said. “We were told we were not going to get the 50 percent, and we sat down one night with Flexera and let them know we were still committed.”

“Seaside Country Store has been a good neighbor to our neighbors for many years, and we give back what we can. We try to be socially responsible, and by [having the panels] we can give back in another way by reducing our carbon emissions.”

The 50 percent rebate from the state, which has now been reduced to 25 percent, comes as a cash-back incentive with monies from the Green Energy Fund. For residential customers, there is also a 30 percent federal tax deduction. For commercial customers, that 30 percent comes in the form of cash back from the federal government.

In addition to the solar panels, Vickers said his family has researched windmills and plans to install them on a farm they own in Roxana. He also noted that, each time they renovated the store, they have made changes to the insulation and have steadily changed the lighting to more energy-efficient bulbs. He said they also are committed to always using local contractors – Flexera being one of them.

“Flexera is an extremely professional organization of young people,” said Vickers. “They were on target, on task, polite and professional. From the time they dropped the equipment off to installation, it was amazing. They were very professional.”

Seaside Country Store will be open until mid-October, every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and, after that, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., to Thanksgiving weekend.