Thrift Store USA is recycling items and energy thanks to solar panels

NORFOLK, Va. - Thrift Store USA is recycling items and giving them a second chance in a new home. Now, the store itself is recycling energy. The 130-kilowatt system perched atop the Norfolk store generates enough power for at least 10 homes.

"It's the largest privately owned system in Hampton Roads," said Chad Wilkins with Convert Energy, who installed the panels.

The system is saving Thrift Store USA owner Rob Giroux close to $800 a week.

"During this heat wave, which has been unbelievable, our meters only moved 100 kilowatts, which is the equivalent of $10. And that's keeping this building all the lights on and the air conditioning running 24 hours," said Giroux.

Giroux's interest in solar started at a young age. After watching the store's bill skyrocket, he knew he wanted to make a change at his business.

"I noticed in the last 10 years our electric bill doubled and went from about 16 to more than 30-thousand a year," said Giroux.

It took six weeks for the panels to be installed. Not a single customer could tell unless they asked. All the while, Giroux is saving thousands of dollars.

"The beauty of solar is when the sun shines and it’s the hottest part of the day, the solar is kicking. So you're making all the energy the grid needs right at the same time everyone is using that same energy," said Wilkins.

Virginia currently ranks 39th in the country for solar capacity per person. Giroux is hoping his business can inspire more people to get solar panels and change that number. Giroux got a low-interest loan to pay for the project costing more than $200,000. He expects the solar panel will help pay itself off in five years.