Dealer Principal Jeff Brandfon, 62, says it's great to be green, but his $300,000 investment in 549 rooftop solar panels connected to the local electric grid is only half the story.
Grid neutrality, as he sees it, is good business.
"We ran the numbers, and with tax credits it was a no-brainer," Brandfon says. "It pays for itself in five years, and then electricity is free for us after that."
With proper maintenance, the solar-power system is expected to have a 20-year useful life. Beyond the rooftop panels, the dealership's system has DC/AC inverters to convert the direct current generated during daylight hours by the solar panels into alternating current for the dealership's electrical needs. Any excess power generated is directed into the power grid of Eversource, an operating coalition of public utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
The system was installed during the summer of 2013, putting the store — which sells about 1,200 new and 1,200 used vehicles a year — on schedule to pay off the initial investment in 2018.
"So far, we're matching the projected numbers," Brandfon said. "And every month, it's nice to get a residual check from Eversource."
The two other electric-grid neutral stores are a Honda engine distributorship, Eastern Equipment in Derry, N.H., and Rossi Honda in Vineland, N.J., which installed 900 solar panels. Rossi Honda's website details other green steps, including more energy-efficient lighting, recycling and plantings that require less watering.
And, the website adds, the green savings "add up and allow us to pass the savings on to you, our valued customer."
Since it launched the green-dealer program in 2012, American Honda calculates participating dealerships reduced carbon dioxide emissions by a cumulative 35,000 metric tons.
On an annual basis, the program "is helping to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 19,000 metric tons [which is] equivalent to 2,800 homes' worth of electricity use each year," said Steve Center, American Honda vice president of connected and environmental development, in a statement. "Reducing energy and water use are achievable goals that can save money, address climate change and inspire others."