Reporting Matt Roush
LAKE ORION – A field next to General Motors’ Orion Assembly Plant, home of the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano, will soon hold a solar array with enough capacity to annually power 45 homes in Michigan.
The energy from the 350-kilowatt array owned by DTE Energy will be sent back to the grid for use by area homes and businesses. In total, the energy saved will be equivalent to avoiding 261 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
“Last year, we committed to doubling our global solar output at our facilities from 30 megawatts to 60 by 2015,” said Mike Robinson, GM vice president, Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs. “We believe in harnessing energy from clean, renewable sources because there a solid business case to be made and it’s good for the environment. This array reinforces our progress.”
The array is part of DTE Energy’s SolarCurrents pilot program that calls for the installation of photovoltaic systems on customer rooftops or property during the next three years. The goal is to generate 15 megawatts of electricity throughout Southeast Michigan.
”SolarCurrents builds on our long partnership with GM to help it become as energy-efficient as possible,” said Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president, Marketing & Renewables. “Our partnership with GM is another example of how our companies work to build a more energy-efficient and sustainable future.”
DTE Energy will build the array on a two-acre parcel facing south to maximize output. It will provide power to local housing and businesses.
The solar array is the latest aspect of Orion’s environmental efforts.
• The facility is powered by gas from two nearby landfills, saving $1.1 million per year and cutting the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides released into the air. This saves more than 6,300 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
• Lighting upgrades in the plant have saved $575,895 while also cutting CO2 by 5,003 metric tons through the use of software that allows plant employees to track energy usage in real-time to improve efficiencies. This is equivalent to the energy used by 442 homes.
• A new eco paint process that eliminates the need for a primer oven is heated by landfill gas, and uses half of the energy per vehicle of the one it replaced. With these paint process improvements, the plant has potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 80,000 metric tons at a full three-shift capacity, which is equivalent to averting the emissions from 14,000 vehicles per year.
In the United States alone, 2.1 percent of GM’s energy consumption comes from renewable resources.