Montana C-store Continues Efforts to Reduce Energy Bill

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Montana C-store Continues Efforts to Reduce Energy Bill


WHITEFISH, Mont. -- Owners of a Montana convenience store are moving forward with their plan to reduce the store's energy bill with the installation of 40 solar panels on the roof and a wind turbine, which should be in place by Christmas.

Midway Mini Mart owners Dan Scheffer and Melody Watts worked with Jeff Arcel, president and CEO of Mother's Power, to get grant funding to cover approximately 55 percent of the $155,000 investment, according to the Daily Inter Lake. Arcel also designed the system, installed it and will provide ongoing maintenance. Mother's Power is a local firm that offers renewable energy solutions.

Scheffer and Watts obtained a grant through the Rural Energy for America Program to pay for a quarter of the cost and a grant through the U.S. Treasury Department is covering another 30 percent.

Scheffer and Watts, who have owned the convenience store on U.S. 93 since 1987, have been on a quest in recent years to reduce their $2,000 monthly power bill, according to the newspaper. They started with an energy audit from Flathead Electric Cooperative. By changing to energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the store and under the outside canopy and making the store's cooling system more cost-effective, they shaved the monthly power bill to about $1,100 a month.

"We've done everything possible," Scheffer told the newspaper, pointing to motion detectors on the store's eight coolers that shut off fans when the store is closed. "At night you don't need pop to be cold. The fans start up again in the morning, and the pop doesn't cool off that much during the night."

The solar panels and wind turbine will reduce the store's power bill by another 20 percent, Arcel said. The investment should pay for itself in anywhere from 10 to 20 years.

"People don't believe solar will work in Montana," he added, "but even on cloudy days [the panels] will kick out 30 to 40 percent of their rated output."