Irregardless Cafe in Hot Water with Yes Solar Systems

See the video on YouTube: Irregardless Cafe Says Yes  It was an exciting week for Yes and the Irregardless Cafe as we installed a 10 collector solar thermal system with a 500 gallon tank and a 100 gallon back up tank.  This makes Irregardless Cafe the first restaurant in Raleigh, probably the Triangle, to use solar power to heat the over 1000 gallons of hot water they use a day.  This is a natural next step for Irregardless, the recipient of numerous awards for their leadership in sustainability, the most recent being the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle Award for Lifetime Sustainability in 2011.

The Irregardless caught my attention when I attended my first Green Plus event, hosted by the Cafe.  Yes was working on our Green Plus certification, as was the Irregardless.  I met Anya Gordon then, and coincidentally their hot water tank had just died a natural death.  Although we talked about solar thermal hot water heating, we ended up just doing an energy audit for them and identified several areas of energy efficiency they could implement.

But in the discussion of sustainability that day, I learned Chef Arthur Gordon had been going to the NC State Farmers Market daily for 36 years to choose seasonal fresh foods to base his menu on.  The Irregardless was the first restaurant in Raleigh to recycle (1975), the first to go non-smoking (1985) and now the first to use solar energy for their hot water.   Their support of local business ranges from their food sources to local musicians and now to local solar providers.

A year later, the solar system was viable due to the tax incentives of 65% which made the payback less than four years.  This was a project that inspired passion in our whole team, partly due to the unique aspects, including a custom built tank by local company Holocene, but partly due to our nerdy passion for food and eating locally and eating well.  Our Holiday team dinner at Irregardless was a fitting celebration.

Congratulations and thanks to the Gordons and Irregardless Cafe.

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