Texas' first Ford dealership to go solar

Freedom Solar Power designed and installed new solar projects for Covert Ford and Covert Chevrolet, both part of Central Texas' fifth generation family-owned Covert Auto Group, featuring a combined total of 120 kilowatts and 384 high-efficiency SunPower solar panels.

Two car dealerships in Hutto are seeing green, reducing their environmental footprint, and saving on energy costs thanks to recently completed rooftop solar arrays designed and installed by Texas-based Freedom Solar Power.

Covert Ford and Covert Chevrolet, both part of Central Texas fifth generation family-owned Covert Auto Group, have new solar projects featuring a combined total of 120 kilowatts and 384 high-efficiency SunPower solar panels. Each dealerships 60-kilowatt array consists of 192 panels and is expected to offset 53 percent of each dealerships energy needs.

"This project is a major milestone, because Covert Ford of Hutto is now officially the first Ford dealership in Texas to go solar," says Bret Biggart, managing director of Freedom Solar. "Its also unique because you dont usually see Ford and Chevrolet dealerships right next to each other, yet alone under the same ownership."

The initial investment for the dealerships solar project was $193,000. Covert Ford Chevrolet of Hutto received a federal tax credit for 30 percent of the projects total cost, and a local utility rebate covered roughly 20 percent of total system costs. The entire project is expected to pay for itself in less than four years.

"It makes a lot of sense for auto dealerships, who own their buildings and want to lower operating expenses, to go solar," Biggart says.

"Electricity represents a large monthly expense for us and solar exponentially helps reduce that expense," says Dan Covert.

In a highly competitive market, auto dealers are positioned to benefit from solar in numerous ways, says Kyle Frazier, Freedom Solars director of sales. The National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) notes that auto dealerships face close to $2 billion in energy costs annually, their third highest operating expense.

"Today, more automotive dealers are turning to solar as a way to alleviate energy expenditures, which are a direct result of energy-intensive, air-conditioned showrooms and highly-lit lots accompanied by long operating hours. Dealerships are not only looking to reduce their operating costs and boost margins, but also to build a more sustainable future for their business," says Frazier.

Annually, the solar arrays will produce 185,338 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which will offset more than 132 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. This is comparable to eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions from 27.8 passenger vehicles driven for one year, recycling 41.8 tons of waste instead of taking that amount to the landfill, or powering 19.4 homes worth of electricity for one year.

Covert says: "Freedom Solar took care of everything. They answered our questions, walked us through the process, and handled all permitting paperwork associated with our installation, including the utility interconnection agreement and rebate incentive documents. It was a complete turnkey solution. In the end they under-promised and over-delivered, making us very satisfied customers."

Covert Ford and Covert Chevrolet of Huttos project features SunPower 327-watt solar panels, which are the most efficient available today, with unmatched reliability and an expected useful life of more than 40 years. Freedom Solar Power is a SunPower Master Dealer, the only company with that distinction in Texas.

"Covert Ford Chevrolet of Hutto is a shining example of how any business can slash energy use and boost the bottom line through innovative thinking and careful planning," says Frazier. "With the Covert name synonymous with car sales in Central Texas, were confident more area dealerships will begin to follow suit."

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