whos afraid of the dark

If the “Monster” Blackout of 2003 taught retailers anything, it’s toprepare for the worst. During that blackout, which affected much of the EastCoast, Ohio and parts of Canada, retailers tried to go on with business as usual—oras well as they could in the dark (see Black Knights, p. 16, Sept. ’03).And as Hurricane Katrina has tragically demonstrated, Mother Nature can causemassive devestation; apart from the loss of life and property, hundreds of thousandsof residents and businesses remain without power throughout the Southeast.

But Mother Nature is not the only culprit behind power outages. Even when thepower goes down for just a few hours, it’s not just an inconvenience; it’s asecurity risk for employees and a drain on profits. Now imagine a store fullof customers and a full staff. Power flutters for a moment and the store goesdark. In a matter of seconds a generator kicks in and it’s business as usual.No loss of registers or lights, no thawing freezers, no fountain units out ofcommission.

Standby generators have always been a costly investment in the past becausethey were designed for industrial usage, which was much more than a 2,500 sq.ft. store could ever need. Or there were residential generators, not nearlypowerful enough to meet a retailer’s needs. But some manufacturers are now designinggenerators specifically for “c-store sized” commercial applications.

The QT Series from Generac Power Systems (www.generac.com),for example, has models ranging in output from 20 to 150 kilowatts. Generac’snew Quiet-Test feature, from which the QT Series takes its name, has the generatorautomatically run at reduced engine speed when utility power is present, makingthe genset exceptionally quiet during its weekly ” exercise cycle.” Each weekthe generator conducts its own self-diagnostic and start-up test to ensure it’sready to go to work when the power poops out. The generators also have a controlsystem that gives audible or visual cues that advise if service is needed.

All QT Series gensets run on natural gas as opposed to diesel, meaning storage, spillage and odor are no longer issues. The cleaner combustion of natural gas and quieter engine operation also minimize environmental concerns.

According to Mike Carr, manager of marketing communications for Generac Power Systems, Generac has leveraged its experience producing industrial and residential generators to create a line for smaller businesses that is 20% to 30% less expensive than comparable solutions. The models have been strategically engineered for lower weight, making them ideal for most rooftop applications.

“Businesses lose money every hour they’re shut down during a blackout,” saysCarr. “Let’s say a convenience store makes $445 an hour at the register. Theapproximate installed cost for a 30kw generator is $11,800. These generatorscan pay for themselves during the first extended outage—in about 26 hours—yetprovide decades of reliable service. And the competitive advantage for a retailerwhen his/her business is open while the store down the road is shut down ispriceless.”

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