by Jeff Gilbert
WWJ AutoBeat Reporter

HAMTRAMCK (WWJ) – General Motors and Detroit Edison breaking ground on South East Michigan’s largest solar panel array.  The 264,000 square foot project will go into an area that used to be a parking lot on the grounds of the company’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which is home to the Chevy Volt.

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“We really mean what we say, in building a green car here, why shouldn’t my presence in the community be much greener,” said Teri Quigley, manager of the large plant that straddles the border of Detroit and its Hamtramck enclave.

The 516 kilowatt project won’t power the entire facility.  But, along with other green efforts, it will combine to save energy, and money.

“This will help us save three million dollars on the plant operation here,” said Bob Ferguson, vice president of GM Public Policy.  “It also helps us as people make choices on the vehicles they purchase.   Many consumers tell us they want to do business with a company that’s environmentally sensitive.”

The Detroit-Hamtramck installation is part of DTE Energy’s SolarCurrents pilot program that will see other systems installed on other properties over the next five years.  DTE says it’s investing $3 million in the array at Detroit-Hamtramck.

“Our partnership with GM is another example of how our companies work to build a more energy-efficient and sustainable future,” said Trevor Lauer, Detroit Edison vice president, Marketing & Renewables, in a statement issued by the company. “Our SolarCurrents program was designed to increase the demand for renewable technologies in Michigan, and it is our hope that installations like this one do exactly that.”

The Detroit-Hamtramck plant has been at the center of a lot of speculation, after GM’s announcement that it’s investing two billion dollars, and adding or retaining more than four thousands of jobs.

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“Clearly we will play a part in that,” said Plant Manager Teri Quigley.  “How big, how grand, we don’t know at this point in time.”

Quigley wasn’t commenting on Detroit Free Press reports that hundreds, or even more than a thousand jobs, would be added at Detroit-Hamtramck.   She also said it was far too early to announce any specifics on how people can apply for new jobs at GM.

Detroit-Hamtramck currently builds the Chevy Volt, Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne.  The two big cars are set to be phased out, with GM seeking ways to build more Volts.  The plant is also on stand by to make the next generation Malibu, if more capacity is needed.

But, it’s a very large facility, and that has the ability to build even more products, prompting speculation about the plants future.

All Quigley would say about that future, is she believes it will be bright.

“I am absolutely convinced that we will have a strong, solid presence in the city of Detroit and in General Motors footprint for the long haul.”

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Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter @jefferygilbert.