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ATL Auto showrooms go solar

Company signs $25-m deal with Panasonic to convert Oxford Road location

Kimone Thompson

Wednesday, July 10, 2013    

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WITH an electricity bill of $1.1 million a month for its Audi and Volkswagen showrooms, ATL Automotive has taken steps to not only reduce the figure, but positively impact the environment at the same time.

On Monday, deputy chairman and CEO of ATL/Sandals group Adam Stewart inked a $25-million deal with Panasonic Latin America for the latter to convert the Oxford Road location to solar power.

The entire roof of each showroom will be lined with HIT photovoltaic cells, covering an area of about 500m2, and providing 58.8 kW of energy, Stewart said. All told, the system is expected to supply roughly 30 per cent of the energy demands and cut costs by a similar percentage.

"With the continued increase in fuel costs worldwide, a solar transformation at this time is our best option as it will drastically reduce our electricity consumption, thus saving us some money," Stewart said at the signing at ATL Eco-store in Manor Park, St Andrew.

But the move, he told the Jamaica Observer later, wasn't only motivated by the company's bottom line as, evidenced by sister company Sandals which has consistently copped global environmental awards, green concerns have been part of the group's ethos since 1997. What's more, Stewart said the transformation to solar as well as the introduction of more efficient energy practices will be replicated in ATL branches across the island.

"Looking at your carbon footprint is, first and foremost, the right thing to do. It is taking dividends out of the company and investing in the technology for a reduction in carbon footprint and cost down the road.

"...We're not at all cynical about the future of energy in Jamaica... and we're not waiting on the 360 megawatts of generating capacity that JPS (Jamaica Public Service) is to add," he added.

The Audi and Volkswagen showrooms were added at the ATL Automotive location earlier this year. Stewart explained that they were selected to start the move to solar for that very reason — they are new, and consequently, more energy-efficient.

"They were brand new and built with high-efficiency lighting, high-efficiency A/C and these HIT photovoltaic cells work best when you have efficiency... that's why you're getting this massive return on investment out of them," he said.

HIT means Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin layer and is billed by Panasonic to be 100 per cent emission free, without moving parts and absent of noise. It is also said to produce 10 per cent more electricity than a conventional crystalline silicon solar cell.

The return on investment is three years, while the system has a performance lifespan of 25 years, according to Panasonic Latin America President Hiroki Kaji.

"This is what we will be doing with all our companies, one at a time, making them more efficient; more efficient A/Cs, more efficient lighting, inverter pumps and then laying photovoltaic cells on the roofs," Stewart explained Monday.

Also present at the signing was junior energy minister Julian Robinson, who praised ATL for the initiative within the context that the country itself is "on an unsustainable path with energy" and intends to substitute 20 per cent of its energy supply with renewables by 2030.

"I congratulate the ATL Group for leading by example," Robinson said Monday.

Work is expected to begin in a month, and should be completed in a three-to -our week period.

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