Friday, May 13, 2011

GM to Power Volt Production With Solar Energy

Now that's what I'm talkin' about. Imagine if we could get all major manufacturers to do this.

The largest photovoltaic solar array in Southeast Michigan will be built at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, turning sunlight into electricity to help power the home of the Chevrolet Volt electric car.

The 516-kilowatt project, announced Wednesday by GM and DTE Energy, will generate electricity capable of charging 150 of the electric cars with extended-range capability every day for a year – a total of 54,750 Volts.

The 264,000-square-foot project is expected to be completed at the end of the summer and will save the facility approximately $15,000 per year over the 20-year easement agreement. The Detroit-Hamtramck facility was chosen because it has available space for the array and because it is home to the Volt.

"This array will significantly decrease energy consumption by combining solar power with ongoing efficiency tactics such as lighting and equipment upgrades and automating equipment shut-down," said Bob Ferguson, vice president of GM Public Policy. "Making sustainable choices is good for both the environment and our bottom line. Obviously cost savings is critical for GM, and the ability to save $15,000 per year while being environmental serves us well."

The Detroit-Hamtramck installation is part of DTE Energy's SolarCurrents pilot that calls for enough photovoltaic systems to be installed on customer property or rooftops during the next five years to generate 15 megawatts of electricity throughout Southeast Michigan. DTE is investing $3 million in the array at Detroit-Hamtramck.

DTE recently announced that their SolarCurrents program, which provided incentives for customers to install solar, was now fully subscribed - meaning they wouldn't be offering those incentives anymore, potentially putting a damper on the expansion of new solar projects. Consumers Energy had also announced full subscription and suspension of their solar program, but was ordered yesterday by the Michigan Public Service Commission to expand the program to include an additional 2MW of generation between small and large projects. They are looking it over and haven't responded yet.

It would be nice to see a permanent, flat-rate incentive applied with unlimited subscription for both business and residential - make the payout smaller if need be, but don't kill these programs. This is creating jobs in manufacturing and installation, and reducing our need to buy out-of-state coal. Win-win. Would be a shame to see it end.