Vogler goes green with solar energy

The roof of Vogler Ford in Carbondale is home to more than 700 solar panels. 

Provided by Vogler Motor Co.

CARBONDALE — There is a lot of talk about green vehicles, such as electric cars or hybrid vehicles, but one local dealership is going green in a different way.

Vogler Motor Company is nearing completion of a $1 million solar project at its seven businesses throughout Southern Illinois. Dennis Rathjen, owner of Vogler, said the project is expected to pay for itself within five years.

“Green energy is a big deal to a lot of people,” Dennis Rathjen said. “Going green makes sense and dollars and cents. In addition to saving money on power, the project will pay for itself.”

The project included installing solar panels at Vogler Ford, Vogler Ford Collision Center and VMC Chinese Parts, all in Carbondale, and NAPA Auto Parts in Carbondale, Murphysboro, Herrin and Marion. The project includes more than 1,650 solar panels or more than 20,000 square feet of solar panels.

All seven locations will be completely solar powered, but that is not the only energy-saving improvements made to the businesses. All locations also replaced existing light fixtures indoors and outdoors with LED lighting, equipped with motion sensors.

Dennis Rathjen said the lights run at 20 percent during the night, but automatically go to 100 percent when they sense someone is present. They turn off 90 seconds after the person leaves.

“They work on a lot less power, and they’re a lot brighter,” John Rathjen said.

Burke Electric in Murphysboro is the contractor for the projects. The panels were installed on the building roofs, about three or four inches from the roof.

“Vogler will actually put power into the grid,” Bill Burke of Burke Electric said. “Ameren will certify that it can tie into the grid.”

Burke said the system at Vogler Ford will definitely over produce power, and every bit of power that is produced beyond what they use will be purchased back by the state of Illinois. He expects as many as four of the locations to produce more power than they use.

“This is the biggest solar operation in the area,” Burke said. “We are the first commercial contractor to do this scale project.”

He added that Vogler has decreased its power consumption to about one-fourth of what it was using by installing LED lights. The LED light fixtures also have a life span of around 15 years. Dennis Rathjen said they were replacing several light bulbs each month before the switch.

“Rather than becoming a polluter, they are using less energy, and it doesn’t affect the environment,” Burke said.

Burke said he has been looking into solar energy since 1999, but found it too cost prohibitive in the early years. The value was not there. Finally, technology has caught up to a point it is worth installing.

“There’s been huge advancements in the last five years that make it economically advisable. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap, just doable. Once we evaluate this project, we can tell people what the real cost is and the real value,” Burke said.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Herrin and Carterville, and is the food writer for The Southern.

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