While just over 1,000 people call the small town of Isom, Kentucky, home, the town is located at a key crossroads in Letcher County, making it a hub that serves a large part of the coalfields of southeastern Kentucky. Many people rely on the town’s businesses for necessities, and see it as part of what makes their whole area thrive. With utility rates on the rise in Eastern Kentucky, area businesses are looking for savings in order to keep their doors open and shelves stocked to fully serve their communities.
Several Isom businesses are finding these savings from the sun.
Mountain Truck Parts went solar in March 2020. Owned by James Hubbard, a former coal operator, Mountain Truck Parts is a retail store that sells medium to heavy duty truck parts and a full line of auto parts. Before solar, Mountain Truck Parts averaged a monthly bill of $1,100 in the winter and $500 in the summer. Now, it is estimated they will save $6,400 per year.
Earlier this year, Hubbard told the Herald Leader that he doesn’t hold any allegiance to coal, especially after he has seen its impact on the health of his community.
“(Operating coal mines) worked for 20 years, but those last few years were horrific, just watching everything fall apart like a house of cards,” he said. “If we didn’t have the schools, hospitals and government, imagine where our unemployment would be. It’s very expensive to fool with Kentucky Power. No matter what you do, our rates are very high.”
Kevin Breeding, general manager of Breedings Plumbing and Electric, echoed Hubbard.
“The cost of electricity is going up with no end in sight. We are switching to solar to save on energy costs for the business,” general manager Kevin Breeding said.
Breedings, owned by Tim Breeding, has been in business for over 40 years and employs twenty Eastern Kentuckians. In addition to the retail hardware store, they provide services to a wide area of Eastern Kentucky and into Southwest Virginia. They will save an estimated $7,400 each year with the solar they installed in March 2020.
This summer, Isom IGA will become the third Isom business to go solar in 2020.
In addition to the three business highlighted in this article, the Mountain Association also worked with three community-led non-profits, including Hemphill Community Center, Appalshop, and HOMES Inc., and two other businesses in Letcher County to go solar in 2019. The two businesses include Annie’s Frugal Finery, a consignment store in Whitesburg, and SouthDown Farm, a maple syrup and produce farm. The Mountain Association provided low-interest financing for six of the eight projects, and helped each of the businesses apply for USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants. We also provided technical assistance to facilitate the projects, including savings projections, review of contractor proposals, and more.
Learn more about our energy and solar program here.