Under Wednesday’s bright sunny skies, a Montgomery County car dealership unveiled an array of panels atop its five-story parking garage.
The Fitzgerald Auto Mall in Gaithersburg said it believes the system is the largest at a dealership east of the Mississippi River.
The 275,385-square-foot garage, constructed through a partnership between Porter Construction Inc. and Aurora Energy, features a 2,475-panel roof that will provide 83% of the campus’ electrical requirements.
“This is a leap of faith for us,” Fitzgerald Auto Founder and Chairman Jack Fitzgerald said at a ceremony. “We think it’s what our customers want, we know it’s what our political leaders want, let’s hope it works.”
The array will reduce the dealership’s carbon emissions by more than 19,000 metric tons over the 25-year life of the system, Aurora Energy Vice President of Operations Mike Ryan said.
Fitzgerald Auto will save $258,000 by using solar energy in the first year of the system, and an estimated $5.2 million over the next 25 years.
“It’s certainly a sound investment for the environment and it’s also going to pay for itself in short order,” Ryan said.
Ryan declined to comment on the total cost of the project, and representatives for Fitzgerald did not respond to requests for comment on the cost.
Fitzgerald received a citation from the Maryland General Assembly delivered by Sen. Nancy King and a congressional certificate from the office of U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.).
The dealership first began discussions with Aurora Energy in 2015 and received a $200,000 grant from the state.
“Hopefully more and more business leaders will begin to see that not only is this good for the environment, but it’s also good for their bottom line,” state Del. Kumar Barve said. “Hopefully we’ll have more grant programs like this, and as prices come down maybe at some point we won’t even need grant programs.”
Fitzgerald founded the dealership in North Bethesda in 1966, and it has since expanded to 12 locations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Florida, including three in the county.
The dealership was already purchasing its energy from renewable sources and has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for its sustainable practices.
Fitzgerald Auto also a program to recycle 80% of solid waste at its facilities, above the county requirement of 60%.
The array generates about 90,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy a month – enough to power 75 homes — in addition to managing water runoff beneath the canopy, illuminating the garage with LED lighting and providing charging stations for electric cars.
“Things are not and cannot be single-use anymore,” Maryland Energy Administration Director Mary Beth Tung said. “A phone is not just a phone, it’s a walking computer as we all know. … And this parking lot is no longer just a parking lot. This parking area not only protects vehicles from the elements, but also reduces the strain on the electric grid.”
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