Quality Hyundai Goes Solar

The cars don’t run on solar power (yet!), but the dealership now does.

That significant environmental event—the coming-online of Greater New Haven’s first solar-powered auto dealership —was marked Wednesday morning with a full panoply of speeches by politicians and the flicking-on of a system of 521 solar panels atop the Quality Hyundai dealership at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Peat Meadow Road.

Click here to read a story about the move of the formerly Branford-based dealership into the former U.S. Postal Service facility at 115 Peat Meadow Rd., which had been vacant for years.

Officials cut the ribbon on the $3 million renovation back in June 2013, and the dealership opened in October, said owner Joe Blichfeldt (pictured), a green-minded businessman who himself had sold aluminum framing and other materials for solar panels back in the 1970s.

Advancing technology and new incentives provided by the state and public utilities have enabled him to turn the sparkling dealership into what Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Robert Klee called “the car dealership of the future.”

Working with DEEP, the Zero Emissions Renewal Energy Credit program (ZREC), which was mandated by law in July 2011,  local officials, and UI,  Blichfeldt invested $400,000 of his own money in the solar panel array, which was designed by Boston-based Independence Solar.

The array will produce about 90 percent of the energy needs of the dealership. With a bi-directional meter, which sends electricity back to the grid if the dealership has an excess on sunny days, Blichfeldt said he expects immediately to save the $3-4,000 he spends a month on electricity.

That means he earns his $400,000 investment back in six or seven years, said James Schwartz, vice president of Independence Solar.

More savings come through the ZREC program: All the kilowatt hours of energy produced during the course of the year are bought as credits by UI; it helps the company fulfill its renewable energy portfolio mandates. That money gets returned to Blichfeld in quarterly payments.

It could amount to about $10,000-12,000 a year, estimated Jeff Lendroth, a sustainability consultant for Pat Munger Construction, the general contractors not only for the solar array but the entire gut rehab of the building.

Click here to read more details of the ZREC program, a cost-savings plum for which Blichfeldt’s project had to compete with other energy-efficiency upgrade submitted by businesses across the state.

Quality Hundai as a result has a 15-year contract with UI to purchase the credits based on the dealership’s production of green electricity, and a federal tax credit for the installation to boot, said Schwartz.

A Very Green Place To Buy A Car

Allan Appel PHotoLooking up, down, and even later climbing up and onto the solar-paneled roof, official after official Wendesday complimented Blichfeldt on the high-efficiency HVAC systems (pictured among the panels), the L.E.D. lighting, the hybrid skylights that integrate the sun with fluorescent bulb illumination, and the giant 14-foot fans that quietly yet powerfully circulate the air around the repair portion of the facility.

“We haven’t turned the AC on yet,” Blichfeldt said.

Asked what his motivation is for going green, he replied that it is not just about saving on his electricity bills so he doesn’t have to pass additional costs on to his customers.

“How about the neighbors! How about 300,000 tons [over a 30-year period] of carbon dioxide emissions not released into the atmosphere? You are either eco-friendly, or you’re not.”

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posted by: Dwightstreeter on August 6, 2014  2:38pm

This will be significant only when the utility monopolies that supply power start converting to wind, solar and hydroelectric.

One business is not sufficient to roll back the climate warming and the eventual melting of the polar ice caps and flooding of our coastal towns.

posted by: Bradley on August 8, 2014  8:25am

Dwightstreeter, the utilities do have a monopoly on distributing power but are barred by law from owning generation facilities (there are some very minor exceptions which I’ll describe if you are interested).  The generation market is competitive, involving companies like NRG, PSEG, and Dominion, as well as renewable energy generators.

I’m not defending the current set-up, just describing it.