Executives at British Motor Car Distributors wanted to cut electricity costs, but were concerned a solar installation could impact its historically significant location. The building that houses the company’s showroom on Van Ness Avenue was designed by renowned architect Bernard Maybeck, who also conceived the city’s Palace of Fine Arts.
British Motors carefully sought an experienced solar design and installation partner for the architecturally sensitive project. SolarCity had recently completed San Jose’s largest commercial solar installation, on eBay’s headquarters, and had been tapped to custom-design and install a solar system on Grace Cathedral, another San Francisco landmark. This experience quickly helped SolarCity rise to the top in British Motors’ search for a partner.
“As the occupants of an historic San Francisco building, we have a responsibility to maintain its aesthetic,” said Jeff Qvale, president of British Motors. “SolarCity’s experience stood out—they earned our trust very early in the project. They designed functional solar arrays that enhance our buildings aesthetically, protect our inventory and provide most of the electricity we need to run our business.”
The dramatic SolarCity design became the largest commercial solar installation in San Francisco, and earned special commendation from then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. The project spans two rooftop carports comprised of 1,606 solar panels and can generate enough electricity to power about 80 San Francisco homes. Over its lifetime, British Motors’ solar installation is expected to offset an estimated 14 million pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of planting nearly 7,000 trees.