You’ve heard of sun tea – meet “sun coffee”!


That’s the solar-power system making history on the roof of Red Cup Espresso in The Junction. We mentioned the other day that it’s one of the stops on a tour of solar-powered businesses and homes coming up this Saturday; Eric Thomas from West Seattle-based Solar Epiphany, who installed it (and is co-owner of Red Cup), describes it as a “1.2kW Photovoltaic System … that tracks the sun throughout the day! First of its kind for Seattle (4th in the country) (flat-roof mounted tracker). Should produce 25%-30% of Red Cup’s electricity.” He’s posted more about the installation at

19 Replies to "You've heard of sun tea - meet "sun coffee"!"

  • Smitty October 2, 2008 (10:49 am)

    Very cool.

    What’s the “payback” on something lke this?

    Cost of panels divided by power savings=XXyears.

    Obviously you can’t put a pricetag on things like helping the environment – but until things like this start to make a difference on the P&Ls I’m not sure you’ll see a lot of it.

    Just hoping Solar has become more of an option.

    Thank you

  • Irukandji October 2, 2008 (10:57 am)

    Red Cup also has discount pricing for drive thru customers with hybrid and electric vehicles: I think it’s .25 off for hybrid, .50 discount for electric. Go Red Cup!

  • cmc October 2, 2008 (2:45 pm)

    Do they charge more for SUV drivers? ;-)

  • nancy October 2, 2008 (4:24 pm)

    They should change the name to SUN BEAN…

  • Gina October 2, 2008 (4:26 pm)

    The owners of the building get a tax credit for installing solar, and publicity for their building.

    Free advertising!

  • WSB October 2, 2008 (4:32 pm)

    Hey, if anyone knows of another local business running on solar (or school, or ??), we’ll write about them too!

  • J October 2, 2008 (4:44 pm)

    Very “cool”! Can you clarify about the “4th in the nation”, though? 4th what? Not the 4th tracking photovoltaic system–must be something else about it.

  • Gina October 2, 2008 (4:56 pm)

    I have high hopes for the Red Cup and solar.

    In the past at other of our family properties a diaper delivery service had a great plan for recycling disposable diapers. An enviromental winner! However, they went bankrupt and left us with a shipping container full of used disposable diapers…so some members of the family were quite hesitant when approached by the Red Cup business with this plan. But since it involves no possible nasty odors, I know that it will work out great.

  • Red Cup Fams October 2, 2008 (6:42 pm)

    To address payback…
    Our payback was immediate. Red Cups goal is to raise awareness and promote sustainibility. If our goals were bottom line based it would be a different story. This is always the first step in going solar…ID your priorities. The traditional “bottom line” will not make the case for going solar or going with compostable cups. But the million dollar question is : What do we want our business to be associated with? Mountains of trash, or a mountain of compost? Cutting edge energy production or old fashioned methods? Its up to us to take the first steps to a cleaner future…no matter the material cost.

  • Smitty October 3, 2008 (9:17 am)

    Thanks, RCF.

    I understand that it’s admirable and also that it’s the right thing to do, but nevertheless, if most people still vote with their pocketbooks (especially in these lean times), then what good does it do if they go out of business because their costs are so much higher?

    The REAL environmentally correct thing to do would be to not allow a drive through so that CO2 is not spewing into the air while waiting in line. That would probably reduce the carbon footprint more than going solar – but would hurt business (I would imagine).

    Another thing to do would be to not allow people to use their own mugs. I know they think this is being good to the environment, but what it does it cause everyone to sit in line that much longer spewing CO2 out of their cars (not to mention the soap and water they wasted at home cleaning their mug).

    That said – this is very, very admirable. I just wonder if some things are more show than go.

  • WSB October 3, 2008 (10:02 am)

    Smitty, you inspire a good reminder –
    It is SO IMPORTANT for people to remember to turn off their cars in drive-through lines or other idling situations. Even before you get to the window or the head of the line. I have seen varying numbers but some say that if you are going to be in place for more than 30 seconds, it’s more efficient to just shut it off. There is a drive-thru I routinely use at another business, at which I turn off the car the second I drive up. (And as we have reported here, Fauntleroy neighbors recently got the city to fulfill their request for signs alongside Lincoln Park reminding ferry-waiting cars not to idle.) Otherwise, though, here’s one thing about drive-throughs. In areas where parking can be crunchy, like the Junction, one drive through can prevent innumerable cases of people driving around the block multiple times looking for parking. And IF they turn off the engine once they’re in line, that probably saves emissions, ultimately.

  • Smitty October 3, 2008 (10:26 am)

    Good points all!


  • coffee geek October 3, 2008 (10:40 am)

    RCF: The solarepiphany blog states you wanted the inverter mounted in plain view “so that customers can see how much electricity the system is producing.” I admire the alotruistic nature of your comment above, but allowing customers to see the amount of power harvested has to serve some purpose. The traditional ‘bottom line’ has to matter at some point. Alternative energy doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in the mass market if it doesn’t pencil out.

  • coffee geek October 3, 2008 (10:42 am)

    sorry…”altruistic”. :)

  • cmt October 3, 2008 (10:59 am)

    Interesting comments and one would suspect that you all turn you engine off at every traffic light too as most are timed more that 30 seconds between changes.

    Bottem line is the fact that the Red Cup has done something exceptional for a small business. They have put into practice what the believe in. Check them out saturday. They have a meter inside the front door that shows just how much energy is being produced at the moment.

  • cmc October 3, 2008 (1:17 pm)

    So is it better to use a cup that gets thrown in the trash or your own mug? I thought I was doing a good thing by using my own……anyone??

  • Smitty October 3, 2008 (1:50 pm)


    Don’t go by what I said – I haven’t done the math.

    I’ve just sat in too many drive thru’s waiting for coffee while the guy in front of me hands the barista his cup after he gets to the window. It takes twice as long (vs using the cup they provide which would be sitting their ready when you drive up) and all the while the cars in line are idling.

    Guess we could all shut off our cars and assume that everyone is using their own cups, but shutting off your car and then turning it back on sometimes spews more CO2 then just keeping it idling.

    The more I look into (some) of this “feel good” environmentalism the more I think a lot of it is just that. Feel good.

  • tina October 3, 2008 (2:57 pm)

    whoever thinks it takes twice as long to make coffee in a travel mug compared to a paper cup probably has no experience making coffee in either. the only extra step prepping a travel mug is to rinse it with hot water before hand to warm it up. is this better than using a paper cup? um,yeah. have you ever looked at the mountain of paper cups ontop espresso machines? that all goes staight into the garbage. (unless you use biodegradable cups, of course). does it take twice as long to make a drink in a travel mug? um, no. bring your own cups! it is just as fast to make and since it is insulated your drink will stay hot longer. it is surprising to hear people be so resistant to change..especially when it comes to preserving our planet. whether all our green efforts work or not, don’t you at least want to TRY? maybe you’d just rather sit around and blog all day rather than get out in the world and make it better.

  • Smitty October 3, 2008 (3:45 pm)


    I think I’ve been misunderstood.

    My beef is with people who use their own “travel mugs” at the drive-thru. By doing so they are making the people in line behind them wait longer because they can’t start making that persons coffee until after they get to the window(and hand them theior mug). If you were to use the coffee shops cups instead, the coffee would be ready and waiting the minute you pull up to the window. Pay, grab your coffee and move on, Instead, everyone waits longer (idling).

    Sorry if I’m being totally confusing.

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