With this coming Saturday’s Green Wheels Expo fast approaching, the Town’s Sustainable Fairfield Task Force wanted to share a Fairfield family business’ success story with installing a rooftop solar array and how this local business is very proud to be part of the Town’s green programs.
Since the summer of 2018, hundreds of blue solar panels on the roof of a Fairfield landmark, the Miller Nissan auto dealership on Kings Highway East, have been generating electricity — and saving this family-owned business thousands of dollars on electrical bills each month.
A couple of years ago, when confronted with the dealership’s energy costs that were regularly topping out at $12,000 per month, Gregg Miller, Vice President & COO of Miller Nissan, decided it was time to make some changes.
“Previously, when you looked at our dealership on Google Earth, you could see all this beautiful white roof space – totally unused. It made me nuts,” said Gregg Miller. “It was the perfect spot for solar panels, a lot of solar panels! But the first step was to nail down the financing to get the project going.”
Connecticut: A Leader in Renewable-Resource Investments
Gregg Miller got in touch with Greenworks Lending in Darien which specializes in financing for commercial renewable-energy projects. Miller Nissan soon secured financing for a nearly 15,000-square-foot solar installation which cost approximately $800,000 and was completed last March. Managed through the Connecticut Green Bank’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program (or C-PACE program), the program allows property owners pay for energy efficiency building upgrades and other green improvements over time through a voluntary benefit assessment on their tax bill.
Some 70% of the capital distributed through C-PACE comes from private investors such as Greenworks. The Miller Nissan deal represents a de facto loan. The auto dealer will pay back the capital provided by Greenworks at a 6% interest rate over 20 years. Operating in 12 states beyond Connecticut, Greenworks aims to become a large-scale provider of green-energy capital nationwide.
“Not many people know this, but Connecticut is number two in the nation, only behind California in total dollars financed through programs like C-PACE,” explains Mark Barnhart, Director of Community and Economic Development for the Town of Fairfield. “The Miller Nissan project shows how a growing number of local businesses are taking advantage of falling green-energy costs and promising partnerships with financiers to reduce their energy footprint as they upgrade their infrastructure.”
Covering Up White Space on the Roof
The installation at Miller Nissan comprises a 259-kilowatt rooftop solar array, made up of about 720 silicon modules sheathed in tempered glass. Complementing the solar arrays, about 450 of the dealership’s lights were replaced with LED fixtures and a state-of-the-art heating and ventilation control system was also installed.
With the new solar panels, lights and HVAC control system, Miller Nissan expects to cut its energy bills – which had run anywhere from $9,500 to $12,000 every month – by nearly 100%. The monthly energy costs cover lighting, heating and ventilation, and the operation of vehicle-servicing equipment. After the solar panels went online, Miller Nissan’s energy costs during the initial three months of operations dropped by half – and are expected to get close to $0!
Gregg Miller says, “Now, when the sun’s out, I’ll be smiling. That means we’re saving a substantial amount of money.”
The partnership with Miller Nissan comprises one of seven solar-energy installations worth a total of approximately $6.4 million that Greenworks has financed at Connecticut car dealerships since 2015. The energy savings from these projects equate to taking about 5,400 cars off the road, according to an estimate provided by Greenworks.
Fairfield’s “Green Wheels Expo” Part of a Growing Trend
The Town of Fairfield is also a leader in promoting environmentally friendly technology. As part of this month’s “National Drive Electric Week,” the Town will host its annual Green Wheels Expo (formerly called the Electric Vehicle (EV) Showcase), the largest electric vehicle event in the State, on Saturday, September 14, 2019 from 10 AM to 2 PM at the small commuter lot across from the Town’s Recreation Center on Mill Plain Road.
The Green Wheels Expo will feature the latest in electric vehicles – including cars, bikes, motorcycles, boats and buses – to provide a fun, informative look at the growing impact and appeal of “emissions-free” transportation. Nissan, the national sponsor of the National Drive Electric Week events, will showcase its Nissan Leaf model, the country’s best-selling EV, at the Green Wheels Expo – see you there!