Grease Monkey in Richmond, Virginia, isn’t new to National Oil and Lube News. The shop caught our eye two years ago with their tremendous dedication to “going green.” Recently, the shop, which is owned by Roger Bouchard and Champe Granger, sparked our curiosity again. They made their biggest leap yet and took their green efforts to the next level.
In November 2013, Bouchard hired Abacus Solar to design and install 36 solar panels on the roof of his shop. Two months later, the shop had a galactic new look that not only catches the sun, but also the eyes of potential and current customers.
We caught up with Bouchard to get an update on his latest green ideas and to find out what solar technology is doing for his business.
“I’ve always been environmentally conscious, and it frustrated me that there was not an economical solution to embrace recycling at our shops. That changed when we struck a deal with Safety-Kleen and Allied Waste,” Bouchard said. “Today, we recycle just about everything. Customers don’t expect this from an automotive shop, and it is nice to get that ‘Wow,’ reaction from them. The solar panels are another ‘Wow’ effect, and it was just a natural migration for us.”
Incorporating a form of sustainable energy into his business is something that Bouchard said he had been thinking about for a while. He considered multiple options (even a windmill), but eventually settled on solar panels. The decision to go solar was based on several factors.
“The total investment of this project was just over $30,000. We worked with Unisource Capital, an equipment leasing company, to craft a deal that made the numbers work. There were two critical drivers that made us say, ‘Let’s go ahead and do this,’” Bouchard said. “As part of the deal, we received an $11,000 federal tax credit, and we were able to take advantage of the 2013 accelerated depreciation benefit for capital improvements.”
An added bonus to the decision to go solar is the marketing opportunity having a shiny black roof created.
“It draws attention to our shop,” Bouchard said. “We expect to generate enough electricity to pay about half of our electric bill. We were able to make solar work for our business, but it would have been challenging to justify the expenditure without the tax code incentives.”
The concept of taking energy from the sun and converting it into electricity that is used to operate lights, tools and other shop equipment sounds like a complicated and painstaking process. Bouchard assured us that it is actually a fairly simple process.
“The solar panels are all connected to each other and feed into a device called an inverter. The inverter is connected to our electrical panel. The electricity produced by the solar panels becomes our primary energy feed. Any additional electricity that we need is supplemented through our local power supplier,” Bouchard explained. “Our solar panel equipment doesn’t have the ability to store energy but we are able to sell the unused electricity to our power supplier. In the event that we aren’t consuming energy, like when we are closed on Sundays or in the summertime when it stays light until 9:00 pm, we sell the electricity back to our power supplier. It happens automatically, and that’s pretty cool.”