When Tony Vaccaro looks into the future, he likes what he sees. In seven years, his electricity bill will read $0.

Vaccaro owns Brooklyn Pizza Company and Sky Bar, two of only a handful of area businesses to invest in solar power. His first installation of 38 solar panels generated 40 percent of the electricity needed to power both venues. Construction to add 237 more panels is almost completed. When that happens, Brooklyn Pizza Company and Sky Bar will be 100 percent solar-powered.

"It's so sunny in Tucson that we will have free electricity after we pay off the panels, which takes about seven years in a commercial setting," said Vaccaro.

The solar installation is comprised of 215-watt, high-efficiency solar panels. The existing 86 panels generated more than 31,068-kilowatt hours of energy per year. With the new panels, that number should triple.

Customers can follow the numbers by watching the educational display located inside Brooklyn Pizza Company. Current energy production, green benefits and fun eco-facts are displayed on the wall-mounted monitor in the restaurant's dining room. The display uses an online data monitoring system that provides historical power and energy data.

By utilizing the sun's power, Vaccaro knows he is making a positive and dramatic impact on the environment. Solar energy created by the existing panels alone for the two businesses has saved 15,540 gallons of water each year, 34.5 tons of carbon dioxide (the biggest contributor to global warming) per month and 15.5 tons of coal each year.

"It's important to use solar power for environmental, ethical and political reasons," Vacarro said. "It would behoove us to not be in some foreign places and to not fight over oil."

Solar power is an excellent investment, especially for businesses, Vaccaro said. The total cost for the project is about $450,000, but thanks to financial incentives offered by federal and state tax credits and a rebate from Tucson Electric Power Company, Vaccaro is paying only $115,000.

The new solar panels provide an added bonus for his customers - shade.

When the businesses ran out of roof space, parking ramadas were installed to shoulder the additional solar panels. Now the structures holding the panels that harness the sun's power also protect customers' cars against the sun's harsh rays, a real bonus during Tucson's hot summer weather.

"Solar power is good for business. Our customers have become more avid because of it," said Vaccaro. "It's a win-win situation."

If you go

What: Brooklyn Pizza Company and Sky Bar

Where: 534 N. 4th Ave., Tucson

For more info: Visit www.brooklynpizzacompany.com.


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