Everyone from massive Fortune 500 companies to small mom-and-pop stores is starting to realize that solar power is a smart business move. Electricity costs for businesses with energy intensive equipment can be sky high, cutting into margins and limiting the amount of money that can be reinvested in other areas of the business.
But it's not just about the money (though that's certainly one of the best parts). Commercial solar, whether for a huge enterprise or a local, small business can bring other benefits that don't necessarily show up on the balance sheet right away, and one New York bakery is proving it.
Ithaca Bakery doubles down on solar power
Ithaca Bakery in Ithaca, New York has shaped up to be a powerful case study on what solar power can do for a small business. According to the bakery's website, it first went solar back in 2004 with a 15 kW grid-connected PV system with the financial assistance of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Ithaca was so impressed with the results it got from its first PV system that it doubled down on its commitment to solar. In 2012, Ithaca had its second solar PV system installed.
Other small business owners might still be skeptical, and Ithaca seems to have expected that. On its website, the bakery provided a solar FAQ to preempt some of the questions that any forward-thinking business would get. For example, some might want to know how a solar PV system could possibly help power an energy heavy business like a bakery all the way up in northern New York. Ithaca noted that they get more than half of the average sunlight that Phoenix, Arizona gets, adding that solar systems can still generate a considerable amount of power even when it's cloudy.
Ithaca also highlighted the importance of state and federal financial incentives that help small businesses take a bite out of the upfront cost of solar power. The financial assistance from NYSERDA went a long way toward helping the bakery equip itself with enough capacity to knock its energy bills down. But the solar panels might be generating more than electricity and savings.
Intangible benefits big for Ithaca
Right when you walk into Ithaca Bakery, you'll notice a small screen with some numbers on it. These numbers are the proof that Ithaca is not only doing what's right for its business, it's doing what's right for the environment.
The screen is connected to the solar PV systems on the building's roof, and it shows how much electricity the system has generated so far and how much pollution it has offset as a result of its clean power generation.
Today, people everywhere are becoming more conscious of the ethical, health and environmental impact of their consumption choices. People are increasingly interested in making purchases that align with these new values to the point where they may even be willing to spend a bit more to make the right choice. A business that can demonstrate a commitment to ethical and sustainable practices is sure to win the hearts and minds of consumers.
This is showing that doing what's right for the environment and doing what's right for business don't have to be mutually exclusive. As Sustainable Brands noted, a recent research report from Havas Media showed that businesses that were perceived as sustainable outperformed similar but unsustainable competitors in the stock market by 120 percent.
Small businesses should look at Ithaca as just one of many models for a successful sustainable small business.