Integrate Solar will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony January 30 to showcase its new solar-powered drive-thru canopy installed at a local KFC restaurant. The 72-foot canopy, designed in partnership with Stewart Restaurant Group, is equipped with 57 solar panels and will produce 1.2 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy over the lifetime of the system. The KFC location at 11935 Rosedale Hwy in Bakersfield will also lower its electricity costs by $11,000 in its first year alone with the new canopy and save nearly $400,000 over the system’s guaranteed life. The solar canopy solution designed specifically for Quick Serve Restaurant drive-thrus also shields employees from the sun and rain when serving customers.

“As California’s electricity rates continue to rise, fast food restaurants have looked for ways to lower their energy bills, but have never found their small, equipment-filled rooftops viable options for solar,” Integrate Solar Cofounder Kevin Benefiel says. “This solution solves that problem and helps improve a store’s operations overnight.”

A typical Quick Serve Restaurant building takes up less than 20 percent of the location’s total space. Integrate Solar has created a way to turn that underutilized space—drive-thrus, parking lots, outdoor seating areas—into profitable solar assets that improve the customer experience, slash electricity costs, and help brands hit their sustainability goals.

“We needed a canopy over our drive-thru to protect our team members taking orders outside of the building. When we compared the costs of a typical canopy to the costs and value of Integrate Solar’s canopy, the decision to go solar was a no-brainer,” says Justin Stewart, co-owner of the Stewart Restaurant Group.

Solar canopies ultimately cost less than comparably-sized traditional canopies because solar canopies qualify for a Federal Investment Tax Credit worth up to 60 percent of the total cost of the canopy. The extension and expansion of the solar Investment Tax Credit was part of the Inflation Reduction Act that Congress passed in 2022. With help from the tax incentives, the energy savings generated from the solar panels will allow the Stewarts to have fully recovered their investment in less than five years.

As consumer preferences have changed, more customers are choosing the drive-thru and outdoor seating instead of dining inside the restaurant, causing fast food restaurants to innovate to meet the new demands. Solar canopies address these customer needs while also locking in lower energy costs and generating more renewable electricity for Californians.