Planet: The first Subaru showroom in the world powered entirely by the sun!
We installed a 78,540-watt solar power plant on
the roof of our building. The 374 solar panels occupy about a
quarter acre of our roof and power our entire showroom: lights, computers,
monitors, phones, fax machines, photocopiers, refrigerators, coffee
makers, water coolers, vending machines...everything that used to be powered by burning fossil fuels. To see a video gallery of the Planet Power Plant, click here.
(So you know...just one kWh, or "kilowatt hour" equals 1,000 watts of power for one hour. For example, 1 kWh will run a microwave for an hour, or about thirty of our high efficiency light bulbs for an hour.)
Are you guys crazy? Probably.
The sun powers Planet Subaru...what powers the typical dealership? Wind, apparently, judging by all the "hot air" in the typical showroom!
How big is each solar panel? Roughly 3 feet by 5 feet, about the size of a kitchen table.
How big is the system relative to other installations? Very big. Most installations that you see have only a handful of panels. Our system has 374. How much power does the installation produce? The system produces almost 100,000 kWh annually. The average American home uses 11,040 kWh of electricity annually, so our system produces approximately the same amount of electricity required to power 9 homes.
Are you tied in to the grid? Yes. National Grid commissioned the "Planet Photovoltaic Power Plant" as an official Distributed Power Generator Facility. We produce electricity that we use at the dealership and also sell to other homes and businesses on the grid.
Does the meter ever run backwards? Sometimes. On an annualized basis, the array will produce nearly half
of the entire dealership's electrical needs. On any given day,
however, we produce more power than we need and we sell it.
Sounds like an expensive project. Does that mean you have to charge more to pay for it? Just the opposite. This is good "eco-nomics." It reduces our costs so we can pass the savings on to you and still maintain the margins we need to earn a living. While the upfront cost was significant, the Planet Photovoltaic Power Plant will generate free power for decades! It's like buying a house instead of renting. Furthermore, lots of Subaru buyers are driving past other dealerships to do business with us because we share their values. In fact, we now average approximately 150 new and used Subaru sales per month! Which means more savings for you.
How does the installation also cool your roof? The panel system shades the roof from the sun during the summer, reducing the thermal load on the roof. On a conventional rooftop, the sun beats down, heating up the air inside the building, which requires electrical power to cool. By reducing the air conditioning needs of the building, the shading effect alone puts approximately 5% more power back on the grid.
Where did all the equipment come from? We kept the business local. Rockland-based Lighthouse Electrical, a union contractor based in Rockland, installed the system. The panels were made right here in Massachusetts. Boston-based Satcon built the inverter.
How long will the solar panels last? Indefinitely. They lose a very small percentage of their efficiency every year, but after decades they will still be able to generate over 90% of the power they did when new.
Hmmm....374 big glass panels on the roof. Do you worry about hail? Yes.
Enough to keep you up at night? No. The panels are designed to withstand damage from anything but the most apocalyptic hail storms. Specifically, the panels can resist hailstones up to one inch in diameter traveling 70 mph. On August 27th, 2011, all the panels survived the worst that Hurricane Irene could throw at them.
What about snow covering them up? It's not really practical to remove snow from them, so the snow sits on them til it melts. Fortunately, some light will pass through snow as long as it's not too deep.
What do you do if you have a massive solar energy spill? We call that a nice day.
United States Congressman Bill Keating and Massachusetts State Representative Rhonda Nyman "flip the switch" to officially commission the Planet Power Plant. Click here to read the Boston Globe's coverage of the event.