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    Bigfoot Heats Up

    Illinois to partially fund convenience store's solar-powered pumps.

    CHICAGO -- A Bigfoot convenience store will get a $60,000 state grant to build a set of solar-powered gasoline pumps.

    The Bigfoot Food Store is partnering with BP to construct the first downstate solar-powered gas station. Solar panels, which will help run the lights and pumps, will be built into the pump island canopy, The State (Ill.) Journal-Register reported.

    Bigfoot facilities manager Matt McCure said the solar panels are part of a $1 million renovation to the store, which was built in 1983. But solar power would not have been part of the plan without a renewable-energy grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, the report said.

    DCCA spokesman Bob Casteel said this is the first solar-powered gas station to receive such a grant, despite BP operating nearly 50 similar stations in the greater Chicago area.

    Bigfoot stores are operated by Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (ACT), a Laval, Quebec-based chain that acquired 227 Bigfoot units from Johnson Oil Co. last year. ACT last month closed on its acquisition of Dairy Mart Convenience Stores Inc. The company operates 2,300 stores in the United States and Canada.

    Thin-film technology used in the solar panels will allow the station canopy to be translucent, further reducing energy costs of lighting the pump area. BP Solar, a sister company of London-based BP, developed the technology that already is used at 350 BP-owned stations globally. The panels generate 5 to 20 percent of a station's energy needs - usually enough to power the pumps and canopy lights, the report said.

    According to McCure, customers won't notice a difference at the pump, which operates the same as those run by electricity. Neither should they notice a difference in fuel prices.

    "We'll price aggressively as always," McCure told the Journal-Register. "But I can't say if [customers] will see a difference at the pump."

    ABOVE: BP, which is partnering with Bigfoot on a solar powered fuel island, began rolling out its solar-powered concept in 1999.

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