The hardware store that has Maine’s second-largest solar-electric system is having an open house today to show off the project.

Damariscotta Hardware recently had 301 photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the 24,000-square-foot business on Business Route 1. The panels are designed to meet about 70 percent of the store’s electricity needs.

The 69-kilowatt system was installed by Maine Energy Performance Solutions of Washington.

The project represents a major step in controlling energy costs for the 55-year-old family business, said Rob Gardiner, the company’s president. The store installed a wood gasification boiler last year, cutting heating oil consumption by 90 percent. Electricity stood out as the next biggest energy expense, with a bill exceeding $13,000 in 2008.

Gardiner was approached by Rich Simon, Maine Energy’s founder, about the potential of the store’s open, south-facing roof. The system that was installed had a total price of $347,300, but with tax credits and rebates, depreciation and an anticipated federal grant, the net cost will be $77,000. That would allow the investment to pay for itself in less than eight years, according to Simon.

Wind energy is receiving a lot of attention in Maine, Simon said, but falling equipment prices and government incentives also can make commercial-scale solar projects viable.

Visitors will be able to view the system’s performance from a monitor in the hardware store. Today’s open house will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m

The state’s largest solar-electric system was installed last year in Alfred, at the George R. Roberts Co./The Step Guys facility. It has 638 panels and a design capacity of 110 kilowatts.

 

Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at: tturkel@pressherald.com