British Motors Case Study

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Key Facts

Location San Francisco, CA
System Size 287 kW
Installed May 2008
Estimated Lifetime CO2 Reduction 14 million lbs.
Est. Annual Electricity Production Equal to 80 homes in San Francisco
Number of Panels 1,606
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"We wanted to do something positive for future generations, and what better way to do it than to adopt clean power."
Jeff Qvale, President, British Motors
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British Motors Taps SolarCity for San Francisco's Largest Commercial Solar Installation on
City-Designated Landmark

Environmentally Sensitive, Historically Significant

Executives at British Motor Car Distributors wanted to green their business and cut electricity costs, but were concerned a solar installation could impact its historic location. The building that houses the company's showroom on Van Ness Avenue has been designated a landmark by the city of San Francisco. Originally opened in 1927, the historic building 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, which had recently completed San Jose's largest commercial solar installation on eBay's headquarters, and had also been tapped to custom-design and install a solar system on Grace Cathedral, another San Francisco landmark, soon rose 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."

Green Can be Beautiful

The dramatic SolarCity design became the largest commercial solar installation in San Francisco, and earned special commendation from Mayor Gavin Newsom. The project spans two rooftop carports comprised of 1,606 solar panels and should generate enough electricity to power 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 seven thousand trees. As an additional benefit, the structure provides ultraviolet and weather protection for the dealership's cars including Smart, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lamborghini, Bentley and Lotus models.

"We wanted to do something positive for future generations, and what better way to do it than to adopt clean power," said Qvale. "SolarCity designed functional solar arrays that enhance our buildings aesthetically, protect our inventory and provide most of the electricity we need to run our business."

Only the Beginning

The project demonstrates SolarCity's commitment to preserving the historical and artistic significance of buildings, says Peter Rive, co-founder and chief operating officer at SolarCity. His team worked closely with British Motors and the city of San Francisco to ensure the system design was consistent with existing architecture.

For British Motors, this is just the beginning. "The solar carports are a fantastic addition to our business and look great on our buildings," said Kjell Qvale, the dealership's chairman and owner. "We're proud to have the largest commercial solar installation in San Francisco."