100,000-Sq-Ft Solar Canopy Shades Cars at Wholesale Auto Lot

Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises set a goal in 2007 to reduce its carbon footprint 20 percent by 2017 via its Cox Conserves program, and the company is employing multiple methods to achieve its goal, including solar and fuel cell installations as well as HVAC and lighting upgrades.

Keith Mask, Cox Enterprises assistant vice president of energy and engineering, oversees the Cox Conserves program for the company’s communications, media and automotive services businesses. He said one example of energy conservation is a solar canopy installation at Cox subsidiary Manheim, which wholesales used vehicles at live auctions and online.

At its Manheim, NJ facility, Cox installed a 1.5 MW solar system on nearly 100,000 square feet of free-standing car canopies and on a roof.

Phase one of the project on a rooftop generates 15 percent of the detail shop’s electricity, producing 136 MWh of energy annually. Phase two of the project on the solar canopies generates 52 percent of the energy consumed in the main auction facility, producing 1,048 MWh of energy annually.

“Because of incentives, it was a very good financial payback for us,” said Mask. The company also has solar installations at Manheim Portland, Manheim Baltimore-Washington, Manheim Georgia, Manheim Phoenix and Manheim Nashville.

Manheim also conserves energy at many of its sites by using lower wattage exterior lamps with new control systems that allow the sites to either dim the fixtures to 50 percent or perform multi-fixture pole switching. Mask said Manheim uses high-efficiency metal halide lamps that use 50 percent less energy compared to older metal halide technology. “With controls we can take the 50 percent that’s left and cut that in half as well,” he said.

Lighting upgrades offer a good return on investment at other Cox businesses, as well, including Cox Communications and Cox Media Group.

But the company has not fully embraced LED technology, yet. Mask said the payback from replacing old fluorescent lamps (T12s) and ballasts with new T8s is as high as 40 percent, but he doesn’t see the same payback to move from T8s to LEDs, yet. However, LEDs do have “decent paybacks” in new construction, he said. Besides the lamps and ballasts, Cox Conserves is employing lighting controls. “We’re seeing a lot of wireless controls in the marketplace where we don’t have the cost of completely rewiring a building,” said Mask.

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