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Burkholder’s Country Market goes solar

Celebration planned June 8

PHOTO PROVIDED The new solar carport at Burkholder’s Country Store not only cuts back on electricity, but also provides a roof for shoppers parking their vehicles beneath the panels.

SPRING MILLS — Burkholders is now home to the largest privately owned solor carport in the state, according to owner Russ Burkholder.

The Spring Mills-based store began researching solar panels about four years ago, but did not follow through then because the return on investment was not quick enough and the business did not want to have money tied up for too long, Burkholder said.

That changed in November after the state offered $30 million in grants through a solar energy program. The company applied and received about $710,000, which helped cover the eventual $1.8 million cost, Burkholder said.

Construction recently finished on the panels, which are perched above the store’s parking area off state Route 45. The Penns Valley business is waiting on final permits to begin running the set-up.

“Our electric costs are obviously one of our larger operating expenses — short of payroll — and it’s one of those expenses that is consistent regardless of how profitable we are,” Burkholder said. “(If) sales go up and down, you can adjust other costs, such as labor and things like that, but your electric needs are always the same. We’re always looking for ways to curve that cost and help make some savings there.”

The three arrays — comprising 1,242 panels — are 300 feet long by 40 feet wide and will offset about 70% of the store’s electricity usage. There are two free electric car-charging stations, as well, Burkholder said.

A “Flip the Switch” event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 8 at the store. Free food, including barbecued chicken and drinks, should be available.

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