To avoid the fallout from one aspect of Colorado weather — hail — and take advantage of another — abundant sun — an auto dealership in Frederick has combined protective canopies with doubled-sided solar panels.
Stapp Interstate Toyota collaborated with VPS, which produces structures for outside parking, and IPOWER Alliance, made up of companies and organizations that service the auto industry. The new structures provide more than 53,000 square feet of protection for vehicles on the 9-acre dealership.
It’s believed that the coupling of the protective canopies and solar panels is the first of its kind in the U.S., said Brion Stapp, the dealership’s owner. At the start, the primary motivation behind the project was to reduce the hail damage and try to cut insurance costs, which have shot up with increasingly destructive storms.
“Our weather patterns have changed dramatically over the last three or four years,” Stapp said.
The dealership, which opened in 1974 in Longmont, has suffered millions of dollars in hail damage and insurance premiums have skyrocketed, Stapp added.
Colorado is second after Texas for insurance losses from hail damage, Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, said in an email.
The Front Range is in the heart of what’s called “Hail Alley” because it receives the highest frequency of large hail in North America and most of the world, according to the association. In the last 10 years, hailstorms have caused more than $5 billion in insured damage in Colorado.
Stapp said more car dealerships are installing protective coverings. The canopies at his business are made of powder-coated steel structures and a special mesh fabric.
The 720 double-sided solar panels are installed on metal poles above and at the edge of the canopies. Stapp said the panels will generate enough electricity to meet 100% of the dealership’s needs.
The investment in the project was substantial, Stapp said, but solar tax credits and other benefits “helped us take the leap of faith.”
And Stapp isn’t worried about hail damage to the panels. The panels are tilted, so blows from the hail will be somewhat deflected. Besides, Stapp said, replacing solar panels should cost considerably less than paying for damaged vehicles.
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