AutoWest BMW unveils first commercial wind turbine

There’s a bit of irony in a car dealership that’s doing its best to be green. As Pete Sargent, project manager at Auto West BMW, told me, “there’s stigma attached to the car industry as user of fossil fuels”.

Auto BMW Wind TurbineAuto West BWM just unveiled their new vertical axis wind turbine at their Richmond dealership, which I had the chance to see on July 27th. Unfortunately neither sun nor wind was with us, so I couldn’t see the turbine work or the beautiful view from the roof that the staff raved about.

So why does a car dealership go the sustainability route? Well, Joachim Neumann, the president of AutoWest, explains that it’s all about “being part of the community”.  The dealership wants to come out as a leader—not only as a business, but also as a community member—on reducing carbon footprint.

Auto BMW Wind TurbineThe Richmond dealership was built in 2007 with carbon footprint in mind. It started out with geothermal heating, to which they added garden space on the roof with a honey bee colony to pollinate the plants and a grey water recycling system to irrigate them, a recycling building topped with solar cells that handles everything from office paper to food scraps, and finally a wind turbine to reduce the dealership’s reliance on grid electricity.

Cleanfield Alternative Energy conceived the turbine and I also had the chance to talk with their representative, Brian Gusko, about the technology behind it. As you can see, it’s not your typical countryside turbine; Brian explained that the wind in urban environments is too unpredictable to work with the traditional horizontal axis turbines. Instead, they developed a smaller, vertical axis turbine that can catch wind coming from any direction.

Auto BMW Wind TurbineAt maximum capacity, the turbine can produce up to 3.5kW of energy—at the end of a year, it’s equivalent to 150 kg of carbon emissions not released in the atmosphere. The turbine is made out of carbon fiber and requires little to no maintenance.

I enjoyed my tour of the facility and appreciated the efforts that the dealership is making to make a positive impact on the environment. It’s easy to focus on the fact that they sell cars, but I think that these efforts give a great example to other businesses or institutions that are thinking about increasing their sustainability. Every step is important, even if it is small.

AutoWest plans on renovating its other dealerships to bring them up to par with the BMW facility, thus extending its sustainability program over several installations. They plan on opening new gardening spots on the roof where employees can grow their own herbs and vegetables. That makes for healthy, local lunches!

Disclosure and editor’s note: AutoWest BMW invited to visit the facility and see the turbine, and Anabelle attended on my behalf. Anabelle was not paid for her review, nor was she required to write one (neither was I). As usual I (Raul) retain editorial control on anything published on my site.

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