Norcross Waffle House goes solar

The ham omelet is the same. Ditto the sizzle in the background, the scattering, the smothering and the clientele.

Welcome to the nation’s first solar Waffle House, or “half solar,” as its morning manager put it early this week.

The restaurant’s new solar panels generate enough electricity to handle about half the hot water at the restaurant on Norcross’ Jimmy Carter Boulevard.

Waffle House is trying to cut its energy costs and go a little green. First Century Energy of Atlanta installed the panels, which sit on the restaurant’s roof near the front door.

They’re visible from the parking lot -- although it’s not exactly clear what they are.

Most customers haven’t asked. “We’ve maybe had a couple of inquiries,” Waffle House vice president Ben Aune said. “Someone would say, `Hey, what is it you’ve got up there on your roof?' ”

Does boutique green energy fit down-home Waffle House?

Aune laughed.

He said Waffle House is hoping for energy savings and wants “to do something to help the environment.”

“We use lots of energy for dish washing,” Aune said. “And we’re a restaurant. We do a lot of washing of hands.”

Waffle House will consider adding solar panels at other outlets if it's worth the expense, Aune said. "We have to make sure it works as planned."

State and federal tax incentives and grants will cover 65 percent of the $20,000 total cost of the current system and its installation, he said. It's hoped that energy cost savings will cover the remainder of the price tag within the first five years of the system's 25-year life span.

At the restaurant itself, meanwhile, the waitresses, grill cooks and customers shrug it off.

The dish-washing water under the counter is as hot as ever, a waitress said.

“That one,” she said, pointing to a hose closer to the grill, “is really, really hot.”

“It’s just kind of an experiment,” one Waffle House manager said.

Is anything different?

“Not at all.”