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04/22/15 by Staff Writer
The Gerry Wood Auto Group announced on April 22 – Earth Day – that it now produces more solar power than any other dealership in North Carolina.
Its three dealerships on Jake Alexander Boulevard South in Salisbury recently installed 322.5 kilowatts of solar production on its roofs. Only three other automotive groups are listed by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association as solar producers, and none has the capacity of the Gerry Wood Group.
Wood, founder and CEO of the franchise, decided to install solar panels on his company’s roofs in 2008, but the economic turndown put the project on hold. He resurrected the idea about a year ago and chose Sundance Power Systems of Weaverville to install the system which came on stream recently.
“My decision to install solar was simple,” Wood says. “It was a ‘win-win.’ It addresses two important concerns: economic and environmental.”
The solar installation is projected to supply approximately a quarter of the dealerships’ electricity and will save more than $30,000every year in energy costs.
TV monitors have been installed in each of the dealerships’ customer lounges to show in real time how much energy the panels are producing and how much fossil fuel is offset by the system.
Sundance projects that the 398 megawatt hours of clean energy produced at the dealerships each year will offset 275 metric tons of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent of taking 58 passenger vehicles off the road each year or planting more than 7,000 tree seedlings and growing them over 10 years. (Trees absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, storing carbon both above and below ground.)
Wood is four-square behind solar. As one of the investors in Catawba College’s massive solar installation, he knows that, after the initial capital cost, the energy he harnesses from the sun will be cost-free.
He notes that solar energy is abundant. “It’s free energy – there for the taking,” he says. “Yes, there is a capital cost, but it’s free power for the next 25-plus years.”
The quality of the air is also affected by the use of solar power. “I’m just a franchise car dealer,” he says. “I certainly am not an environmental scientist. I don’t know anything more about it than anyone else, but I do believe what the experts are telling us about global warming and how our actions affect the earth.
“We all know that lighting, heating, air conditioning, office equipment, and machinery use enormous amounts of power,” Wood says. “This power is generated in large part by fossil fuels – coal burning being a major fuel and a major source of pollution.”
Wood added: “One of the issues that we in the auto industry cannot ignore is that the vehicles we sell emit polluting exhaust in ever growing quantities despite the increase in fuel economy. Car and truck emissions do leave a carbon footprint. And, while (thankfully for me) no one is anxious to give us their vehicles, I do think it is our responsibility to offset as much we can.”
By attracting and harnessing solar energy, Wood says, “we’re able to reduce the use of fossil fuels, thereby offsetting some of the impact of all the combustion engines on the road, and work to keep our skies their intended Carolina Blue.
“It is a logical and healthy choice – our social responsibility for our children, grandchildren and future generations,” he says, “and it also works toward making us energy self-sufficient.”