“NE” now marks the spot of the Audubon Park café
Unless you’re flying through the skies of Northeast Minneapolis, you won’t see the latest addition to the Coffee Shop Northeast.
The café at 29th & Johnson in Audubon Park cut the ribbon Tuesday on new solar panels on its roof. Not only do the panels produce the equivalent of about 25–35 percent of the shop’s energy needs, they double as an aerial landmark, spelling out “NE.”
“The solar company actually came up with it, so it ended up just working out,” said Rich Horton, whose owned Coffee Shop Northeast for seven years. “They told me at first and I thought they were joking.”
Horton and his wife had to fix the building’s roof, so it was a cost-effective time to add the 64 panels, which were installed late last fall and generate 20 kilowatt-hours worth of electricity. With the help of federal tax and utility credits, Horton said the panels will pay for themselves in about 10 years.
The older building necessitated fewer panels that were more evenly spaced out than traditional solar projects. That’s when staff at Roseville-based IPS Solar suggested the unique configuration.
“Most of our customers want to maximize the roof space available and we fill it as much as possible. Normally they’re kind of boring squares,” said Brian Keenan, a solar sales executive with the company. “With the area the way it is, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to see it from the ground… (but) there’s Google Earth.”
There’s also Facebook, and the Coffee Shop Northeast has shared drone images of the panels online. The project has doubled as advertising, Horton said, by generating a buzz among the shop’s following.
“Customers are pretty excited about it so it’s pretty exciting,” he said.
The Coffee Shop Northeast, at 2852a Johnston St. NE, is open 6:30 a.m.–10 p.m. daily.