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Retail building goes solar

The Shoppes at Woodbury Village got a solar upgrade earlier this month when the landlord, Robert Muir Co. installed solar panels on the roof. Staff photo by Hank Long.1 / 2
Robert Muir Co. installed several rows of 10kw solar panels on the roof of the Shoppes at Woodbury Village earlier this month. The improvement will save tenants in the building up 20 percent on their common area utility bills, company officials said. Submitted photo.2 / 2

Paul Schmitz recently moved his business to a new location at the Shoppes of Woodbury Village. Not long after things were settled at his store, Data Doctors, he received a letter from his property manager. It was all good news.

Robert Muir Companies, who owns the building on the northwest corner of Bielenberg Drive and Valley Creek Road, informed tenants earlier this month they were planning to install solar panels on the roof of the building that would help subsidize energy costs. The developer also said it would make the improvements at no cost to the tenants.

The improvements, which were okayed by city building inspectors, were made shortly before the big snowstorm hit Dec. 11. The solar panels are now up on the roof and Schmitz said he's excited about what he calls progressive thinking on the part of his landlord.

"I've only been a tenant here about three months," Schmitz said. "But when you get news like that it kind of reinforces that you moved into the right location. I like the idea not just because it creates a bit of a buzz among the tenants here, it can save us money."

The recently-completed project is the first time Robert Muir Companies, has initiated such an alternative energy improvement to its retail properties, although its not the first time the developer has utilized energy-saving technology.

Last year the company received a sustainability award from the city of Woodbury when it switched from neon to LED lighting for many of its storefront signs at its Tamarack Village shopping center.

The process involved properly disposing of nearly 3,800 feet of neon tubing and rewiring for lower voltage. The change, though expensive, will ultimately pay off due to the economic and environmental benefits of LEDs which can last 100,000 hours and use less than half the electricity of neon, a city report on the change stated.

The fact that the city of Woodbury has reached out to businesses to provide a pat on the back for sustainability improvement efforts provided that much more incentive for the recent solar panel installation at the Shoppes of Woodbury Village, said Mark Peterson, property manager at Robert Muir Company.

"It's not lost on our company that with all the commercial properties we have in Woodbury that these types of improvements are something the city has demonstrated it has an interest in," Peterson said.

Small, important savings

The dozen or so lines of solar panels that were recently installed on the roof of the Shoppes at Woodbury Village are part of 10 kilowatt system that was hooked up to the common area utilities. The solar panels will reduce the cost of the common area utilities bill for each tenant by about 20 percent, said Rick Schroeder, vice president of construction at Robert Muir Co.

"We're taking a wait-and-see approach and if it goes well and is successful it could be something we implement at other locations," Schroeder said.

City's green initiative

Last year the Woodbury City Council approved an alternative energy ordinance that outlines how solar, geothermal and wind systems can be used in the city's zoning districts. Robert Muir Company is the first commercial developer to apply to install a solar panel system on one of its properties in the city, said Woodbury senior planner Melissa Douglas. One resident was approved for a solar panel installation this summer.

Schmitz said he welcomes any other developers in town who are willing to make alternative energy improvements to their buildings if it means cost savings for tenants.

"It's nice to know that a landlord is actually looking at a type of improvement that most wouldn't even consider," Schmitz said. "But maybe that will change over time."