And why it's become an increasingly viable, and profitable, option.
In 2020, there were 14 hurricanes, and half of them were a Category 3 or higher. More than just rain and wind, hurricanes bring power outages that can last for hours, days, even weeks. When you consider that each year food waste in the restaurant industry is already in the billions of pounds with billions of dollars lost—how can we afford more through weather-related power outages? We can’t.
Solar power has become a viable option for restaurant owners and operators because of its positive impact on the bottom line. When buildings have the ability with solar panel rooftops to create their own electricity and store it, it can significantly reduce, if not potentially eliminate, food waste when refrigerators, freezers, ice machines and display coolers stop running. Whether it is one independently owned location, a catering or banquet hall, or chain of casual restaurants or fast-food drive-thrus, solar power provides empowerment against an unreliable grid.
Here’s how it all works. When solar panels are installed on rooftops, the sun beats down on them creating electricity that can be used, stored, even potentially be resold. How much electricity can be made is based on a series of factors, but when positioned properly, solar power works on gloomy or rainy days.
Below are what every restaurant owner should know about solar power panels:
1. Drive-Thru Operations. Solar panels can be easily added to existing rooftops of all shapes & sizes without disrupting day-to-day business. This includes drive-thru structures which can continue operations during the installation process because it is very similar to laying new roof tiles or shingles. For stores offering delivery, your solar panels can help charge the electric car that makes your drop-offs!
2. Fine-Dining Establishments. Since the look & feel of these restaurants is often as important as service and cuisine, solar panels are sometimes considered a distraction in design. The work-around on this is to turn your unusual rooftop into an exciting community outreach initiative. Restaurants with solar panels have the opportunity to share their sustainability commitment by actually pointing to it. Solar power is more than a theory—it is an actuality, and this is a great way to build and strengthen community relations.
3. Power Outages Protection. Imagine being a restaurant that can keep freezers, refrigerators, ice machines, chilled service areas, and other electric-operated food displays and storage running when there is a grid power outage. It is now possible! Some restaurants have experienced breathtaking financial losses from food waste and business interruption during these times. Solar power can shorten the time periods of outages, if not eliminate them altogether, when the solar-produced electricity is stored in batteries, keeping the power on when the grid is down.
4. Federal Tax Credit and Potential Monthly Savings. Through 2022, there is a 26 percent federal tax credit available for eligible businesses in the tax year filing their solar project commences construction (but so long as the system is placed in service before 2026). The credit will lower to 22 percent in 2023 and after that, it lowers to 10%. It should be noted that in most cases the federal tax credit can be applied in addition to any other available state or local government or utility incentives. As far as monthly savings on electric bills, how much will depend on how many solar panels are installed and their placement based on the building position. But there could be situations in which restaurants will generate an excess that can be potentially sold back to the grid for a credit. Long-term savings will increase when your solar financing is paid off, because at that point all of the energy produced is free.
Power outages and increased utility costs are a reality and have a direct impact on every restaurant’s bottom line. Solar power creates opportunities for potential savings in a few different ways and it is worth considering whether you own one or many locations.