A tragic October 2017 wildfire in Northern California prompted the owner of an auto dealership group to take on an initiative that may have a significant long-term impact.
Hansel Auto Group’s (HAG) Henry Hansel, along with MBL Energy and NantEnergy, on Sept. 20 unveiled the installation of solar + energy storage systems at Hansel’s eight establishments in Sonoma County, California.
Hansel attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Santa Rosa, which bore the brunt of the Tubbs Fire, part of the so-called “Northern California Firestorm.”
“It’s actually very rewarding for us,” Tom Fancher, director of business development for MBL, said in a press release.
Fancher explained that Hansel “wants to and needs to” give back to the Santa Rosa community after the wildfire.
“The concept of solar was not foreign to a lot of dealerships in the past,” Fancher said. “He wanted to be part of the solution and not the problem.”
A meeting with the auto group’s CFO was held in which the storage systems were conceptualized. MBL’s design team devised a proposal that, according to Fancher, “financially made sense.” NantEnergy came aboard shortly afterwards.
“It was the right kind of marriage at the right time where Mr. Hansel wanted to do something to give back,” Fancher said. “He was open to looking at new concepts, new designs and new technologies.”
According to the press release issued jointly by the three entities, the MBL-engineered and installed systems feature a total of 1.555 MW of solar PV integrated with 567 kWh of NantEnergy’s behind-the-meter SmartStorage systems.
“[Mr. Hansel] saw it as a total win for the community because this system, from a statistics standpoint, will reduce the equivalent of almost 219.9 million smartphones being charged in a year or 2,030 acres of forests being planted,” Fancher said. “It was significant and received very, very well.”
The project is expected to save an estimated $14.3 million over the next 25 years on HAG’s utility bills by reducing peak demand charges and offsetting energy usage, according to the release.
Fancher said he hopes dealerships will be able to store all of their energy on batteries and live autonomously off the grid.