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LOCKPORT – The Pizza Oven, a longtime neighborhood pizzeria in Lockport, on Monday became the first private business in the city to win Planning Board approval for a major solar power project.

Owner John Rinaldo said 37 solar panels will be mounted next Monday on the just-replaced south side roof of his business at 54 Vine St.

Rinaldo said the $53,000 project, about $10,000 of which is being funded by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will allow him to use solar power for up to 60 percent of his pizzeria’s electrical needs.

“My accountant says in six years, I’ll have a 14 percent return [on his $43,000 investment],” Rinaldo said. “I don’t know why more people don’t do it. Utilities are your second-largest cost after labor.”

Chief Building Inspector Jason Dool said Pizza Oven is the first for-profit entity to present a solar power plan to the Planning Board. Previously, the Lockport Family YMCA, the YWCA of Niagara and the Lockport Presbyterian Home had won approval for solar panels.

Rinaldo said power generated during the day will be stored in the power grid, and he will receive a credit on his electric bill for electricity left unused after Pizza Oven opens for business late each afternoon.

Rinaldo said he uses natural gas-fired ovens, but he said he’s switched all the lights in his store to efficient models.

On another matter, the Planning Board approved a Hertz car rental office in a nearly vacant strip plaza surrounding a Rite Aid drug store at South Transit and Summit streets.

James Baglioli, of landlord Benderson Development, said the office will offer no more than 15 vehicles for rent, to be parked on one side of the property.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com