Installation at dealership on Highway 99 just north of town expected by end of the month
By Jim Flint for Ashland.news
An Ashland car dealership is putting its money where its mouth is.
After long extoling the virtues of hybrid and then electric vehicles, TC Chevy decided to implement clean energy measures for the dealership itself by going solar.
Five elevated solar tracker arrays are expected to be installed and up and running by the end of August, greatly offsetting the dealership’s power usage from the grid.
The arrays are manufactured by Ashland-based Stracker Solar.
Derek DeBoer, owner-operator of TC Chevy, chose Stracker because of its cutting-edge technology.
“Our cars and trucks feature the latest designs and manufacturing practices, and we wanted a solar power system that does the same,” he said.
“It’s important to harness new technologies and be forward thinking. To have some solar offset to our power can only be a win, and why not do it in the best way possible,” DeBoer said.
Each Stracker array will have 28 bifacial solar panels atop its 20-foot pole. The dual-axis arrays follow the sun throughout the day, generating up to 70% more solar energy than same-sized fixed systems.
Besides providing power for the dealership, each unit also will sport high-power LED lighting for the illumination of the dealership’s vehicle display lot.
The complete system will produce 140,000 kWh of solar power per year, which the company says will provide an annual 99.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide reduction in the atmosphere.
TC Chevy has been in conversation with Stracker CEO and founder Jeff Sharpe for several years.
“My dad (Alan) met Jeff and was impressed with his drive and inventiveness,” DeBoer said.
Saving money was not TC Chevy’s prime motivation in scheduling the installation.
“I’ve not made that a real consideration,” DeBoer said. “It’s a responsible way to offset power usage and at some point, I’m certain it will also financially pay off.”
Sharpe started Stracker in 2016, incorporating the company in 2017. Stracker’s installations over the past six years have operated across a wide variety of climates and terrains.
“We have been improving the product continuously and it is ready for the national market,” Sharpe said.
Sharpe’s involvement in solar came early in his career. He started in the solar field with his dad in 1976, designing, building and installing “breadbox” water heaters that used solar energy to heat batches of water prior to its flowing into a traditional water heater.
Since then, he became a professional engineer and licensed contractor. After doing business in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Corvallis, Montana, he moved to Ashland 18 years ago, opening the engineering firm, Sharpe Energy Solutions, Inc.
“All of our energy is devoted to Stracker Solar these days,” Sharpe said. “We are ahead of the curve on high-efficiency solar technology and the only company offering an elevated dual-axis tracking system.”
TC Chevy isn’t the only local project for Stracker. It recently installed a six-pack array in White City for Franz Bakery’s new outlet store, making the facility net-zero electric.
Stracker arrays also power a robotic off-grid dairy in Northern California, as well as numerous schools and residences. In 2019, it designed and built Ashland’s first community solar project at the ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum in collaboration with Southern Oregon University and Abbott’s Cottages.
Oak Street Tank & Steel in Ashland has been a key partner for Stracker by helping develop fabrication methods and test prototypes of Stracker’s elevated systems.
“Eventually, they helped us gain our UL 3703 certification,” Sharpe said, qualifying Stracker for Energy Trust of Oregon incentives. Oak Street Tank & Steel, in fact, was the site of the first Stracker installation.
The idea for an elevated system came to Sharpe while working on a five-tracker installation for Granada Elementary School in California.
“A light came on,” Sharpe said. “I saw the value of raising the mechanical and electrical systems well out of reach to avoid fencing and maintain the school ground below.”
Sharpe never looked back, and looks toward the future with a sky-is-the-limit attitude.
Reach freelance writer Jim Flint at firstname.lastname@example.org. TC Chevy is a sponsor of Ashland.news. Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at email@example.com or call or text him at 541-631-1313.