Two Covert Auto dealerships in Central Texas rely on SunPower to generate 50 percent of their annual energy needs.

Ryan Ferrero, Director National Solar Project 2020, is a guest blogger for SunPower.

Auto dealerships may not pop to mind first when you think of a business type that’s likely to rely on renewable energy. But it turns out that solar is a natural fit for this type of enterprise. In fact, many dealerships have discovered that photovoltaic (PV) solar systems can help them save money.

Controlling energy costs is a major issue for many types of businesses, but it’s especially true for auto dealerships, most of which are housed in large buildings with extensive square footage. The combined utility bill for U.S. auto dealers is about $2 billion each year, according to the National Auto Dealers Association. (Learn more in our latest press release about car dealerships going solar.)

Supplying air conditioning and heating for these buildings is a major cost, along with the need to light showrooms to spotlight beautiful new vehicles. And, lighting those large outdoor vehicle lots after hours also adds to those expenses.

Auto Industry Embracing Solar

So, it makes perfect sense that at SunPower we’re seeing a surge in the number of auto dealerships going solar. These family owned businesses are saving money on electricity by installing solar carports and/or solar rooftop systems to help achieve energy independence.

Take Luther Auto Group In 2012, Luther Auto, the largest privately owned automotive group in the Midwest, decided to make a dent in its electric bill by partnering with SunPower to install high-efficiency SunPower® solar systems on 10 of its 33 dealerships, adding about 454 kilowatts of solar.

Using the 30 percent Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and other tax depreciation benefits, the company saved approximately 55 percent on installation costs. Rebates from the local power company saved them another $292,000 in project costs. Best of all, the solar systems are expected to save Luther Auto more than $45,000 each year. That will add up to about $2.1 million in savings over time.

“It’s clean power on ‘unthought of’ spots,” says Linda McGinty, Luther Auto’s vice president of real estate. “On top of a car dealership surprises people.”

Watch Luther Auto's going solar story on the SunPower YouTube channel.

Car Dealerships in Texas and Colorado Go Solar

The trend is proving true elsewhere in the country as well. For instance:

  • Covert Auto of Central Texas installed 125.6 kilowatts of SunPower on the roofs of its Ford and Chevy dealerships in Hutto, Texas. These systems provide more than half of the dealerships’ power needs each year. Covert also saved money thanks to the federal tax credit and a local utility rebate. The systems are expected to pay for themselves in two years and save the company approximately $500,000 over 25 years. “Electricity represents a large monthly expense for us,” says Dan Covert, sales manager at Covert Ford-Hutto. “And solar helps reduce that expense exponentially.”
  • Boulder Nissan in Boulder, Colo., is driving the transition to electric vehicles in Colorado so it makes sense that in 2016 the company decided to ramp up its sustainability efforts by essentially filling up those EVs with free energy from the sun. Boulder Nissan installed a high-efficiency 50.25 kW SunPower system on its roof that will – in addition to moving to LED lighting – providing a combined projected savings of $384,000 over the next two and a half decades.

Most businesses in general go solar for financial reasons, according to a SunPower customer survey. So car dealerships are no different. But going solar has come with another big benefit, says Ted Christiano, general manager of Boulder Nissan. Customers have a positive view of solar, and solar panels on the roof are seen as an expression of corporate goodwill.

“Customers are choosing us over competitors because we are demonstrating our concern for the community and the environment by going solar,” Christiano says. “Our solar project is actually gaining us customers.”

Learn more about how SunPower can help your auto dealership go solar.

The National Solar Project 2020 was launched in April 2017 at the Denver Auto Show by Ryan Ferrero, Director, and long-time domestic/import Dealer Principal, Ryan Ferrero.  As a SunPower partner, Ferrero speaks to Dealer Principals, NADA 20 Groups and Auto Dealer Associations across the United States in an effort to analyze, educate and transition as many of the 17,000 franchised dealers to solar as possible, to help them take advantage of various financial subsidies scheduled to begin to sunset in December 2019. Contact Ryan Ferrero at ryan@ryanferrero.com