Whitesburg KY

Two more Isom stores go ‘solar’

3rd to switch soon

While fewer than 1,000 people call Isom home, the community is located at a key crossroads in Letcher County, making it a hub that serves a large number of people in the region.

Many people rely on the town’s businesses for their necessities, and see Isom 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. Owned by Whitesburg attorney 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 its move to solar, Mountain Truck Parts averaged a monthly power bill of $1,100 in the winter and $500 in the summer. Now, it is estimated the company will save $6,400 per year.

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader earlier this year, Hubbard said he doesn’t hold any allegiance to coal to fuel his electrical service, 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 Breeding’s Plumbing and Electric of Isom, echoed Hubbard.

“The cost of electricity is going up with no end in sight,” Breeding said. “We are switching to solar to save on energy costs for the business.”

Breeding’s, owned by Tim Breeding (Kevin’s older brother), has been in business for more than 40 years and employs 20 eastern Kentuckians. In addition to the retail hardware store, Breeding’s provides services to a wide area of eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia. The store will save an estimated $7,400 each year with the solar system they also installed in March.

This summer, Isom IGA will become the third Isom business to move to solar power during 2020.

In addition to the three business highlighted in this article, the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) also worked with three community led non-profits — Hemphill Community Center, Appalshop, and HOMES Inc. — and two other businesses in Letcher County to go solar in 2019, Annie’s Frugal Finery, a consignment store in Whitesburg, and SouthDown Farm, a maple syrup and produce farm.

MACED 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. MACED also provided technical assistance to facilitate the projects, including savings projections, review of contractor proposals, and more.

Ariel Fugate is the communication coordinator for the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), which has offices in Berea, Hazard and Paintsville.

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