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Major retailer in Liberty goes green with solar panels

Published: Tue, October 23, 2012 @ 12:07 a.m.


Steve Fife, job foreman from Joe Dickey Electric, works on one of nearly 2,000 solar panels being installed on the roof of the Walmart in Liberty Township as Matt Giles, project manager from The Romanoff Group, looks on.

By Burton Speakman



The crowds who come to the Walmart in Liberty Township have little clue about the work being done just above their heads.

For the last three weeks, workers have been installing 1,927 solar panels on the roof of the business, said Steve Fife, from Joe Dickey Electric, job foreman for the project.

This is the largest solar project so far within the Mahoning Valley, say those involved in the work. Nearly the entire roof of the store is covered with panels that will convert solar energy to electricity and be used to help power the store.

In total, the panels will provide up to 455 kilowatts of energy per hour, said Dave Dickey, president of Joe Dickey Electric. The project will be completed in the next week.

“On a good bright day it will provide about half the power needed for the store,” Dickey said. “On an average day it will be about 30 percent.”

The panels are designed to last 25 years, about the same time as a roof. Based on the amount of power the panels will produce combined, it will take a couple of years for them to pay for the cost of the panels and installation, Fife said.

There won’t be any type of battery to collect power; it will just go straight into the grid, he said.

It just makes good business sense to put up the panels and reduce energy costs if you have the roof space, Dickey said.

“If you look at how much power they’re saving, it makes a huge difference in their carbon footprint,” he said.

Walmart has completed eight similar projects in Cincinnati and two in the Columbus, said Matt Giles, project manager from The Romanoff Group, a Gahanna, Ohio-based electric, heating and cooling company. Romanoff has overseen all the projects.

The panels work better in the winter, he said. They can continue to operate effectively when covered by as much as 2 inches of snow.

“We were very fortunate when we called the union and said we needed 16 guys to do this job, they were already trained,” Dickey said.

Both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions in Warren and Youngstown have trained workers in solar and wind energy through their apprenticeship program.

In the 1970s when solar technology started to become available, it simply would not work in this area, Dickey said.

“It was just too overcast here. In the last couple of years, the technology has improved to the point where it works even if it’s overcast,” he said.

Ohio has the same number of overcast days as Oregon or Washington, which use a lot of solar power, Fife said.

“Germany, the No. 1 country for solar power, also has a comparable climate,” he said.

Solar-panel technology continues to improve as panels are being designed that produce more energy, Fife said. In addition the cost is about 75 cents per watt for the panels plus installation.


1howardinyoungstown(591 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

It is Walmart, Would you expect them ti have anything that is not made in China?

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2AnotherAverageCitizen(1194 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

mr. Does it really matter who made them? Who made your TV, Lightbulbs, clothes? I bet a large percentage of the stuff in your house was not made in USA.

The point is, solar energy is going to be a large part of the future.

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3Jerry(858 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

First……”the panels will provide up to 455 kilowatts of energy per hour,”….. is a nonsensical meaningless statement. Kilowatts are power, not energy. Will the panels be making 455 KW per hour at night??????

Second……The numbers are not all provided, and those that are, do not add up.

If this is a 455 KW array, it will produce about 500,000 KW-hours per year; which is worth about $50,000 per year.

At $0.75/watt for the panels, this is an investment of $341,250; which means the payback is nearly 7 years, not “a couple years”. And this is just considering the cost of the panels, without considering installation.

Normal installations like this in Ohio are going for $5 to $6/watt installed cost. So the total investment might be more like $2.5 million. This would stretch the payback out to 50 years; and please recall that the life of the roof and panels is 25 years.

This begs the question, “Who is really paying for this?”

I am guessing based on research into other similar projects.

Here are the questions that a real report would answer:
What is the real cost?
What is the real energy output?
Who is really paying for this?
What State & Federal grants and tax credits are being applied?
How much are the taxpayers paying for this??

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