N.J. Penney stores go green

April 1, 2009 4:07:31 PM PDT
Five JC Penney stores in New Jersey are now powered by the sun.

They are part of a pilot program that aims to save money and energy by installing hundreds of solar panels on store roofs.

"We're about clean, we're about green, we're about conservation," said JC Penney representative Michael Taxter.

At the JC Penney store in Deptford, that means more than selling reusable shopping bags. It means installing 848 solar panels atop the Deptford Mall, where, inside, officials symbolically flipped the switch to solar power today.

The Deptford store is one of five JC Penney locations in New Jersey to go solar. Officials say the move was made for both environmental and cost-cutting reasons. But the environmental message means more. The five New Jersey stores generate 1.9 megawatts of solar power. That is equivalent to the electricity needed for 200 homes.

"It's the right thing to do for the community we do business in," said Taxter. "And it's really the right thing to do for our customers and associates on a personal basis."

"We know that we're running out of oil," said Deptford mayor Paul Medany. "It's a common sense thing, and this is a great effort by JC Penney."

Customers agree. And so do employees like Tammy Strait, who has been keeping displays in order here for 10 years. "It's a scary thought that we're running out of oil," she said. "When I heard they were going solar, it was very exciting."

"I think it's a great idea," said customer Nancy McKee from Mullica Hill. "I think they all should do it."

New Jersey is second only to California when it comes to the use of solar energy. JC Penney is among the first major retailers on the East Coast to give it a try. The solar energy pilot program is expected to generate the equivalent of 25 percent of each store's total energy demands.

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