Working under General Motors' “Green Zone Initiative,” a California and a Michigan Chevrolet dealership each recently installed solar charging stations to offset costs and up their commitment to renewable energy.

Modeled on the solar canopy at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, the dealers' canopies will be capable of fully charging up to 12 Chevrolet Volts per day, or up to 4,500 charges annually.

The first dealerships to install the canopies – at no cost to themselves – were American Chevrolet in Modesto, Calif., and Al Serra Auto Plaza in Grand Blanc, Mich.

Energy from the sun makes charging the Volt an environmentally cleaner proposition. Excess energy is sold back to the grid.

“The question isn’t whether to install a solar canopy, it’s where and how many,” said Joe Serra, president of Serra Automotive. “It’s a win for us because the electricity generated will help reduce operating costs, and it’s a win for the environment since solar power helps reduce our carbon footprint.”

The Green Zone Initiative is part of GM Ventures’ recent announcement to invest $7.5 million in solar panel manufacturing and development company, Sunlogics .

Sunlogics PLC is a vertically-integrated global solar energy systems provider specializing in solar project development and installation. The scope of the company’s current projects and operations includes Canada, the United States, Europe and China.

In one shot: From the sun to photovoltaic panels to end user. The canopy also happens to fit aesthetically with existing architecture.

Each of the Chevrolet dealers partnered with Sunlogics for its "Green Zone."

“The beauty of this program is that there is no capital cost required from the dealership,” said Dave Halvorson, president of American Chevrolet in Modesto. “Not only do we generate the solar energy to increase our reliance on renewable electricity, but the Green Zone is a billboard of our commitment to the environment.”

Sort of a bird's eye view

As part of its investment, GM has committed to double its global solar output from 30 megawatts to 60 megawatts per year by 2015, and the dealership solar chargers are a step in that direction.

“Just one of these canopies provides enough renewable energy to power two to three homes per year, or more than 25 percent of a dealership’s energy consumption,” said Perry. “Collectively, that will be a lot of power we are putting back into the grid.”

Presented with subsidized solar, the canopies' marketing and PR value was seen as a no-brainer, as charging for more EVs is expected to increase.

A request for information from a GM spokesperson including questions of how many more dealerships will get solar canopies, at what pace will they come online, what each would have cost, and more, were not returned yesterday.

Otherwise, GM says 1.4 percent of its U.S. energy consumption is derived from renewable resources.

“GM is the leading user of renewable energy in automotive manufacturing. It has three of the largest automotive rooftop solar power installations in the United States, and the world’s largest rooftop solar installation at its car assembly plant in Zaragoza, Spain,” GM said. “Additionally, GM has started construction on a new solar field at its Detroit-Hamtramck facility and completed construction on a solar array on top of its Baltimore Operations facility.”