What's So Funny About Going Green?

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Jay Leno is about as well known for his expansive collection of cars and motorcycles as he is for the yucks he gets as host of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Now the longtime comedian and talk-show host is earning accolades for his work in turning his 17,000 sq. ft. garage into an energy-efficient, power-generating, nontoxic home for his famous toys.

To date, Leno has installed a 54-kilowatt solar system on the roof of the garage, which is close to the Burbank Airport near Los Angeles. Additionally, a PacWind Delta II wind turbine cranks out about 10 kilowatts. Much of the time the array is powering all the various electrical equipment used inside the shop while generating electricity that goes back to the grid. In fact, in an exclusive interview with Dealernews Leno says that last year he received a check for $25,000 for the juice that goes back into the system.

While the monetary payback is nice, as is the chance to operate free from the utility company, one of the biggest perks is the PR he gets to calm critics of his vast collection of internally combusting toys. "With all the cars and motorcycles I have, rather than have environmentalists screaming, 'You asshole. You've got all these cars. You're polluting.' They go, 'Oh, you make your own energy and you're not putting anything bad in the ground water. That's pretty cool.' That's the interesting part about it," Leno says.

He suggests that dealers could get the same public relations benefits, which they could parlay into "green open houses" for regular customers, schools and the curious public. Leno's own work has drawn the attention of people around the world, thanks in part to a video highlighting his efforts that he posted at www.jaylenosgarage.com.

"It's 50 percent car and motorcycle guys, and 50 percent are environmental people who find this interesting," he says. "In the daytime I'm off the grid. I'm using solar power at a fixed cost. It was expensive to put in, but my electricity now is fixed for the next 25 or 30 years."

Given that his "Big Dog Garage" is a working environment, Leno also has some eco-friendly technology for such workaday mechanical chores like parts cleaning and hand washing. An Omegasonic ultrasonic parts cleaner replaces caustic cleaning chemicals, while air canisters from MX Factor take the place of disposable aerosol cans. MX Factor tanks also propel a waterless hand cleaner that enables him to use less H20.

A Bio-Circle parts cleaner from Walter Surface Technologies uses microbes that consume oil and grease and turn them into water and carbon dioxide. "It's the same thing used when they cleaned up after the Exxon-Valdez," Leno says. "You put something in there that's oily. The solution turns black. The microbes eat the oil and the next day it's clean again. It's pretty amazing." — Dennis Johnson