Mark Hildebrandt developed an interest in clean energy in the 1970s. Over the years, it became his career — he owns a company that installs solar panels — so it’s only natural that he counts on the sun to create the electricity to charge his Chevrolet Volt.

“I made the switch to renewable energy a while ago, and thus with solar energy, I can power my house, charge my Volt and pump energy back into the grid, which I get credit for,” said Hildebrandt, owner of Sunventrix in Saline and one of the first Volt purchasers in the state. “As more Volts are sold, I believe the demand for solar charging stations will increase. I have spoken to a handful of Volt owners in Michigan that are really interested in charging their Volts from solar energy.”

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Hildebrandt isn’t alone in harnessing the sun for battery power. ZD Wines’ winemaster and CEO, Robert deLeuze, has run his Napa, Calif.-based winery exclusively on solar power since 2007, and today you can often find deLeuze’s Volt among the grape vines charging from the winery’s photovoltaic system.

“Solar power generation makes sense, and I think the Volt will help generate more interest in home installations,” said deLeuze. “ZD Wines has had a solar power station for the past three years and purchasing my Volt was a driving factor in installing a solar photovoltaic system at my house.”

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According to OnStar data, many Volts are going up to 1,000 miles between gasoline fill-ups.

“The majority of miles driven by Volt customers are powered electrically by the Volt’s battery,” said Cristi Landy, Volt marketing director.

The Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, home of the Volt, is already using sunlight to charge Volts before they are loaded for transport to dealerships. The plant has a 20-kilowatt solar carport that houses 10 Volt charging stations. Additional charging stations are planned for other locations around the plant.

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The Volt’s batteries, when fully charged, offer about 35 miles of gas- and tailpipe emissions-free driving. When the Volt’s battery runs low, a small gasoline engine kicks on to charge the batteries, extending driving range another 344 miles on a full tank.