The project's director is Ryan Ferrero, a former Colorado Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Kia and Mazda dealer. He also is CEO of Ignyte Lab, the parent of Independent Power Systems.
Ferrero said the time is right for dealers to convert their businesses to solar energy as costs continue to fall and incentives remain in place. A 2016 study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that installed prices for small, nonresidential solar systems dipped 7 percent in 2015, while larger systems fell 9 percent.
"We can't just beat a drum and say this is good for the planet. We need it to be good for the wallet, too," he said.
The project's push comes about 20 months before federal tax credits are set to begin fading at the end of 2019. The Solar Investment Tax Credit, which was extended in 2015, will remain at 30 percent of the cost of a solar project for businesses through 2019 before progressively dropping off to 10 percent by 2022.
Ferrero said that while tax incentives provide dealerships with an extra incentive to move onto solar power, doing so would make sense even without the incentives.
Dealerships have "untapped" energy savings that could help a store's bottom line by the equivalent of two or three more vehicles sold per month, Ferrero estimates. And he said dealerships could get a return on investment within three years -- a timetable that has dropped significantly over the past several years.
Dealerships that inquire about solar energy through the project will receive a no-cost study about their energy costs and usage and the incentives at their disposal.
Ferrero said his pitch to dealers centers on helping them enhance their bottom line.
"If we make it easy and just get to the very raw facts, it's attractive to dealers," he said. "It's a matter of how much more they want to know."
Ferrero hopes to present the project's results at the 2020 National Automobile Dealers Association convention, in hopes of spreading the project nationwide.