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April 22, 2013

Solar panels bring more savings to Tom's Discount

SALISBURY — When the owner of Tom’s Discount Store turns on his air conditioning this summer, it will be the first time he doesn’t fear that flipping the switch will cause his electric bills to spike.

Tom Newman is fulfilling a long-time goal this week as he installs more than 150 photovoltaic solar panels on the back half and south-facing part of his roof at the Elm Street business. The panels should cut Newman’s summer electric bills almost in half. In the past, they have reached as high as $1,500.

The savings means the project will pay for itself in five years, Newman said.

Newman has watched the progress of the solar industry for years with an eye to implementing it for his 15,000-square-foot retail store. His motivation wasn’t only to save money, but also to become a “greener” business, shrinking his carbon footprint. After watching a solar electrical generating business go up on nearby Rabbit Road, Newman thought the time had come to move on his idea.

“I said, ‘Wow, how can I do that?” Newman said. “I made some calls. It looked possible.”

Getting a quote he though was reasonable, Newman brought the solar panel provider to his accountant’s office.

“I told him, ‘If you can sell my accountant on this, I’ll do it,’” Newman said. “After listening, my accountant was on board, but he asked me to get another bid to make sure we were getting a good price.”

Newman got two more bids and learned he had a wise accountant. One of the new bids was from a long0established, nation-wide company, Real Good Solar, and it was significantly lower than the others.

According to Real Good Solar’s Travis Genatossio, the solar panel business has changed a lot since the company began in 1978, largely due to two reasons. First, the cost of the technology has come down significantly since its early days. And second, there are green energy incentive programs in many states, like Massachusetts, that make solar energy more cost-effective.

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