Geoff Marietta found out just how expensive it can be to heat a 12,000-square-foot, 100-plus-year-old building.
The building, located on the corner of 2nd and Main streets in downtown Corbin, Kentucky, sat vacant from 2005 until Marietta bought it in 2017. He immediately started renovating it in order to turn the building into an event space, and part of that renovation included adding an electric furnace.
“Heating that building, especially before we put apartments in, I was paying like $2,700 a month,” Marietta said. “Immediately, I was like ‘I have to get this under control.’”
Marietta was already familiar with USDA Rural Development programs and some of the partners who can help with applications and financing, and with the help of Mountain Association’s energy team, he had an energy audit and a proposed solar system that would significantly reduce his energy costs.
After some stumbles and a COVID setback, Marietta flipped the switch on a rooftop 39.9-kilowatt-hour solar system in July 2022.
August 2022 marked the first full month of having the system up and running, and despite running the air conditioning during the peak of summer, Marietta said that electric bill was the lowest since he purchased the empty building with no HVAC system.
Marietta’s experience is no exception; solar projects like this can save businesses substantial money on operating costs, but there is still a bit of a disconnect between the reality and the perception.
“Solar is never going to scale at the rate people want to see it until the solar advocates are able to articulate to small business owners how much money it will save them,” said Marietta. “I think stories like mine [are important] because I can say this is already break-even for me in year one using the REAP plus some creative financing through Mountain Association. Honestly, it’s a no brainer.”