ABINGDON, Va. - K-VA-T Food Stores here, which operates 105 Food City and Super Dollar stores in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee, plans to open its first new store with rooftop solar panels by the end of the year, and may ultimately invest in a solar energy farm to handle its chainwide energy needs.
“We’ve seen our power bills go up, so we may build an energy farm with solar panels in the next five to 10 years to offset those costs,” said Keith Hudson, fixed asset manager for K-VA-T and chairman of its energy committee. “We’d look at a farm if the money was there” in the form of government grants, he noted.
K-VA-T received government grants to help pay for a 50.1 kilowatt solar system for the rooftop of its new store, lowering the payback to 6.5 years from 10 to 12 years, he said.
While the chain is constructing new stores to support rooftop solar panels and skylights, its existing stores are unable to handle the extra weight; a solar farm would be able to supply energy to existing stores. The farm could eventually stretch to 200 or 300 acres, though it would likely start small, with perhaps five acres, said Hudson. “We could then add five or 10 acres to it after a year, or whenever capital became available.”
The chain’s current annual energy bill runs about $25 million, so the farm would be built to handle $30 million to $35 million, given the expected rise in energy costs, he added.