Dallas-based El Dorado Chevrolet / Mazda of McKinney, has collaborated and contracted with Sunfinity Renewable Energy of Dallas and The Ratliff Group of Coppell in an innovative program that turns solar power into a tool for generating positive cash flow that can be used for a variety of corporate growth and expansion goals. El Dorado Chevrolet is now being recognized as the first green automotive dealership in the nation.
“Our commitment to solar canopies is our biggest environmental initiative to date,” said 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.”
Other environmentally oriented programs at El Dorado Chevrolet include landscape design using plants suited for Texas with low water requirements, along with a major recycling program to cut solid waste disposal by 35% or more.
The new solar system will turn El Dorado’s buildings into Net-Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB), with the total amount of renewable energy created on the site exceeding the energy used by the buildings on an annual basis. Graff further states, “This will significantly reduce our cost structure, and we will be able to pass these savings on to our customers.”
According to John Billingsley, Chairman, and CEO of Sunfinity Renewable Energy, the plan centers on powerful system design combined with leveraging Retail Electric Provider programs in deregulated Texas that credit excess electric generation exported to the grid back to the originating business. “While this ‘net metering’ concept is law in some other states, it isn’t mandated in Texas,” said Billingsley. “However, our Commercial & Industrial team has identified ways to, in effect, create net metering-like cash flows for a business.”
The El Dorado system features 37 new car canopies topped with 3,456 solar panels, installed at El Dorado Chevrolet / Mazda. These canopies will produce more electricity than is used on the entire 28-acre campus, which is home to El Dorado Chevrolet / El Dorado Mazda. The excess energy not used on site will be exported to the state’s power grid, generating electricity credits for El Dorado. The system is estimated to offset more than 45 million kilowatt-hours of electricity over a 30-year life, saving El Dorado more than $4 million in electricity expenses which can be reinvested into the business.
“This type of project is a win-win-win,” said Billingsley. “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.”
Benefits beyond solar
“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,” said 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.”
In addition to generating over a megawatt of clean energy, the Sunfinity-designed canopies
will protect one of the largest automotive inventories in the North Texas region from hail and weather damage, and provide a shaded, protected environment for customers to shop. (El Dorado has up to 1,600 vehicles in inventory.) The Ratliff Group, LLC represents El Dorado Chevrolet / Mazda as their owner’s representative and construction manager and projects construction will begin in the first quarter of 2019.
— Solar Builder magazine