The Planet Subaru owners had the planet in mind when they decided to install a 75-kilowatt rooftop solar array on their Hanover, Mass. building, but it helped that the system made financial sense as well.
“We started investigating solar years ago,” said Jeff Morrill, who owns the dealership with his brother John. “But pre-2009 the math just didn’t work. We looked at solar. We wanted to do it, but we had to do it in a financially responsible way.”
Things changed in 2009 with President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and new state and federal tax credits for renewable energy installations.
The Subaru dealership officially flipped the switch on its solar array with United States congressman Bill Keating (D-Mass.) earlier this week.
Massachusetts is one of the most popular states for solar development in the country right now.
“This was still an environmental decision,” Morrill said. “It was always an environmental decision. But the policy changes made it financially responsible, if not a good investment.”
Of course, Morill said, he knows he’s not going to get rich off of his rooftop solar.
The system takes up about half of the roof space on the 22,000-square-foot building. That’s about a quarter of an acre of solar panels, Morrill said.
“We wanted to have a system big enough to do something in terms of reducing our electric consumption,” he said.
And the system does offset most of the car dealership’s electrical usage.
“Solar seemed like such an elegant solution,” he said. “The panels shade the roof. The sun is there, it’s free. Everything is right there on site, so you don’t have to worry about transporting it and all the parasitic losses.”
Subaru doesn’t produce any electric vehicles yet, but Morrill said he expects the dealership will get one of Toyota’s new plug-in vehicles when they are available and will be able to charge the car with clean renewable energy.
He’d like Planet Solar to be a trendsetter among the 600 Subaru dealerships across the country.
“I’d like to tell you they’re all solar and we were one of the first,” he said.