El Dorado Chevrolet/Mazda in McKinney, Texas will become one of the first net zero car dealers in America once its planned 1 megawatt, 3,456 solar panel canopy is completed. Net zero means that over the course of a year, the electricity generated by the system will more than offset all the electricity needed to operate El Dorada’s 28 acre new car, used car, and service facility. The project will be spearheaded by Sunfinity Renewable Energy and installed by Ratliff Group, which specializes in construction projects for automotive companies.
In addition to providing a place for solar panels, the 37 canopies will shade the cars on the lot from the scorching Texas sun, making shopping more pleasant for customers and protecting the cars parked underneath from hail, a threat that is becoming more common in the area, according to a report in Solar Industry magazine.
Over the 30 year life span of the solar system, it is expected to generate more than 45 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and save the company $4 million in utility expenses. Any excess energy created will be exported to the local utility grid. “While this net metering concept is law in some other states, it isn’t mandated in Texas,” says John Billingsley, chairman and CEO of Sunfinity. “However, our commercial and industrial team has identified ways to, in effect, create net metering-like cash flows for a business.”
“This type of project is a win-win-win,” he adds. “El Dorado receives a lower utility budget certainty for decades, which enables them to dedicate those dollars to other business-building initiatives. The project helps the Texas grid by supplying power when it’s most needed. And the community benefits environmentally because El Dorado will be offsetting a significant amount of CO2 — equivalent to replacing over 35 million pounds of coal burned.”
The solar canopy project includes other programs designed to make the dealership more environmentally friendly and sustainable. They include landscaping that uses plants that require very little irrigation together with a recycling program to cut its solid waste disposal by at least 35%.
“Our commitment to solar canopies is our biggest environmental initiative to date,” says Stanley Graff, owner of El Dorado Chevrolet. “Sunfinity was able to show us how to benefit the environment and our bottom line all at the same time, and that’s an unbeatable combination.”
“We have been looking for a solution to the rising insurance premiums due to hail damage for our automotive clients for several years and have been impressed with the Sunfinity solar solution to car protection and electricity generation in one clean package,” adds Bennett Ratliff, president of The Ratliff Group. “We believe this is a solution that delivers incredible value for El Dorado Chevrolet / Mazda and will be a model for the industry.”
Shhhh….do not mention that the increase in the frequency of hail storms might have anything to do with a warming planet, which may be exacerbated be the emissions from the thousands of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles sold by El Dorado each year. Folks in Texas are skittish about moving too far too fast on that climate change thing.