Solar panels at IKEA’s Charlotte store to be ready by summer

03/15/2013 12:00 AM

03/14/2013 2:34 PM

Modern furniture isn’t all IKEA Charlotte is offering these days. It is bringing in modern technology by installing over 4,200 solar panels on the roof of its four-story building off University City Boulevard.

The installation is part of a nationwide movement toward green technology on behalf of the company. The Charlotte location is the last of 20 IKEA stores that have installed solar panels.

Rich Geist, facilities manager with IKEA, said the panels are being installed only at certain locations because of the additional weight they bring to buildings.

“These things are very heavy,” he said. “IKEA needed to make sure the buildings that received the panels could handle it.”

Geist said the chain is committed to moving in a greener direction because company officials understand their environmental responsibility as a big-box store. By installing the panels, IKEA will save 950 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, he said.

“We are the first big-box store in North Carolina, that I’m aware of, to install solar panels,” he said. “We’ve always been a green company and always tried to do the right thing by the environment. IKEA is a big-box store, and we use a lot of energy. We just want to make a difference.”

According to Geist, the panels will save the company a substantial amount of money and energy usage each year. The store will reduce its energy usage by 20 percent to 25 percent each year, he said, which translates into about $50,000 in energy costs. He said that’s the same as reducing usage by the energy it takes to power 120 houses.

“(The panels are) a big deal for IKEA and North Carolina, because just like any other state in the country, we are moving toward energy use reduction,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll be something that’s going to be attempted with other big-box stores in our state.”

Geist said the panels, scheduled to be finished May 17, are coming at the perfect time for IKEA.

“When the panels are finished, we will be coming into the summer months, when we really crank up the AC,” he said. “The panels will be up there soaking up the sun and making electric (power). They’ll be a lifesaver when that time comes.”

Brian Gott, community relations coordinator with IKEA, said the solar panels are just one way the company is trying to be greener.

The company’s second annual recycled furniture drive will be on April 20 to benefit the United Way furniture bank. Each person who brings gently-used furniture will get a $10 gift card to be used at IKEA the same day.

“We are focused on helping our customers live more sustainable lives,” Gott said. “We support our community and its sustainability efforts, and want to help coordinate their recycling efforts and reduce solid waste.

“It’s important for us to go green,” Gott said, “because preserving our resources is our responsibility and well as everyone else’s.”

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