Planet Subaru is a fitting name for a car dealership whose showroom runs entirely on solar power. The environmentally-minded Hanover dealership recently completed the installation of 374 solar panels that power the entire dealership's showroom -- from coffee makers to light bulbs.

In an industry that can be unpopular with environmentalists, Planet Subaru is working to change that perception.

It is the first car dealership in New England to run entirely on solar power, dealership co-owner Jeff Morrill said.

"We wanted to do it because we're in a business that's pretty hard on the environment and we want to take every step we can to minimize that impact," said Morrill, who owns the business with his brother John.

Now that the installation is complete, Morrill estimates that the dealership saves $1,000 a month on its electric bills. A federal grant of $150,000 helped subsidize the project's $450,000 price tag.

"There are better investments, but that's not why we did it," Morrill said.

But Morrill said the solar panels, which were completed in April, have attracted new customers to the dealership from all over New England. He said people who care about the environment are more likely to buy a car from a dealership that has ideals similar to their own.

The showroom is fully functional, even in bad weather. The showroom can rely on regular electricity from the power grid if it's cloudy or the panels are covered in heavy snow.

The solar panels can produce enough electricity to power as many as eight homes. During intense sunlight when Planet Subaru isn't using all of its power, the electricity gets redirected to homes in the area. Planet Subaru is then reimbursed by NStar for that power.

Morrill said he gets frequent calls from dealerships from Maine to Indiana who are interested in the solar panel showroom.

Adding to Planet Subaru's eco-conscious spirit, the Morrill brothers have set aside five of the dealership's 11 acres for a nature reserve. On any given day, wild turkeys, geese, field mice and an aggressive family of Eastern Kingbirds can be seen roaming around Planet Subaru's green space.

"I really am a tree hugger," Morrill said. "The reason we did this is because we believe in it."

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