Longs Solar Panels

Workers from Solar Energy Solutions were busy on Monday morning installing rails on the roof of Long’s $1 & Up that will hold solar panels. Funded through a USDA Rural Energy grant, the project is expected to save the store around $5,800 per year.

Over the past decade, energy savings has remained a big part of Long’s Pic Pac and Long’s 1 & Up Pro Hardware’s continued success.

The latest step is the installation of solar panels at Long’s $1 & Up. The switch to solar energy is expected to save the business around $5800 per year.

Starting the business in the 1960’s Ray Long opened a small meat shop in Middlesboro, called the Pot of Gold and eventually opened another shop in Pineville. Today, that shop is known as Long’s Pic Pac, which is now owned and managed by Ray’s son, Mike Long. A key way Mike has been able to keep the store competitive and sustainable has been through energy savings.

After meeting with one of MACED’s energy experts, Josh Bills, at a Kentucky Utilities meeting several years ago, Long has been working with group on energy efficient equipment, lighting, and solar. According to Ariel Fugate, he is now saving over $23,500 per year. In addition to expert advice and research over the years, MACED has provided rebate and grant application support that has allowed Long to bring in nearly $78,000 in grant funding for projects at the grocery store and for a solar installation at Long’s 1 & Up Pro Hardware.

Long’s 1 & Up is owned by Ray’s wife, Sandy Long and managed by her nephew, Jeff Allen and niece, Ashley Delk.

According to Long, upgrades have been critical to controlling expenses at both stores as they continue to face lower gross margins, and a declining customer base due to population decline and competition increases.

“This store was built in 1989 and we try to continually revamp it,” Long said in an interview with MACED. “Customers want to see that you’re independent, but that you provide the upgrades as a chain in that you do the things the right way. We’re known for putting money back into the business and remodeling and staying up with the newest trends.”

After they upgraded their cases to a more energy efficient option and had doors put in, Mike said the place instantly appeared cleaner and less cluttered, as things were easier to see. Produce has stayed fresher longer as it is not drying out and there are fewer people handling it.

“As far as financially, KU billing does not show as much as you might think because KU had a rate increase, so we have been working with MACED to see how we can control our demand,” Mike said. “In the summer we’ll run say $6,500 a month – half of that is the actual rate and half of that is a multiplier done for the demand charge – so in a given month anytime that there’s a high spike in demand, it multiplies for that month.”

Mike Long being recognized by a community member for their continued support.

As a business owner, Mike said these decisions did not always come easy. He asked around at other supermarkets, including reaching out to his friend at Isom IGA, who MACED also works with, about her experiences, as well as local Bell County schools who had upgraded lighting.

“That helped, but anytime that we got information on something or specs, I would bounce it off of Josh at MACED,” Mike said.

After seeing the savings from his efficiency investments at the Pic Pac, Sandy upgraded to LED lights at the hardware store. This is saving them an additional $1,500 a year, and was in part covered by a $1,295 rebate. And now, Sandy, Jeff and Ashley are taking the next step to controlling energy costs by installing solar panels at the Hardware. Their 39 kilowatt system will generate about 60 percent of the hardware store’s annual electric use, saving them around $5,800 a year. A $20,000 grant from the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), plus a 26% federal tax credit, makes this investment even more lucrative. The system is being installed by Solar Energy Solutions.

According to Fugate, MACED is proud to work with this Bell County family. By realizing important savings for organizations and businesses that are providing vital services from stores like Long’s, to low income housing or community arts nonprofits, we are investing in the future of Appalachia, proving that businesses can thrive and markets can diversify.

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