General Motors (GM) has certainly made a name for itself beyond “car manufacturer.” In more recent years, the international company has dedicated itself to the pursuit of renewable energy and efficiency research and applications with products such as the Chevy Volt, 100 landfill-free facilities, a 32 percent reduction in water consumption, and its commitment to doubling its solar power output to 60 megawatts by 2015 (GM even won Energy Star’s Partner of the Year Award for energy efficiency).
And now, the company’s newest success is the installment of an 8.15 MW solar array on the rooftop of one of its Adam Opel AG plants in Rüsselsheim, Germany. The array is one of the largest installations in Europe with an area equivalent to 32 soccer fields and will produce up to 7.3 million kWH of energy annually. This array will reduce the plant’s CO2 emissions by about 3,150 tons each year, which is equal to the annual amount of carbon isolated by 609 acres of pine forests. Together with GM’s other solar arrays in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and Zaragoza, Spain, this array will allow the company to produce 19.1 million kWh of electricity a year, the equivalent to the avoidance of 8,200 tons of CO2 emissions–the same amount needed to supply 5,800 household with their annual electricity needs.
But GM is not the only one to benefit. While solar electricity produced at Rüsselsheim feeds directly into the grid of the plant and is used in vehicle production, the excess solar power is fed into the public grid of German energy company Stadtwerke Mainz and hence to Rüsselsheim itself. In other words, not one photon of sunlight will go to waste.
With the indisputable success of the new array, General Motors has upped the ante by increasing its solar output goals. Originally aiming to reach 60 MW by 2015, GM’s new goal is to increase its renewable power target to 125 MW by 2020.
“When we announced last year our plans to double our global solar power output by the end of 2015, we had large projects like this in mind,” said Mike Robinson, GM vice president, Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs. “And it is because of this type of progress that we are committed to increasing renewable energy use to 125 megawatts by 2020…The projects we undertake in Europe are great examples of the way we roll sustainable practices into our manufacturing process. We seek out renewable energy opportunities around the world to help clean the grid, improve our bottom line, and reduce our impact on the environment.”
General Motors doesn’t plan on stopping now. Accompanying the increased solar output target are the company’s goals to further its Green Construction Program, which works with contractors to meet specific environmental requirements such as managing indoor air quality by using curtains and barriers to reduce airborne particles like dust and dirt from entering the atmosphere, reducing energy use onsite with rechargeable battery-powered equipment, and segregating materials like metal, plastic, glass, and concrete for ease of recycling and less use of landfills. Currently, all facilities are either landfill-free or reusing/recycling 90 percent of their waste.
“We strive to reduce our environmental footprint in all that we do – whether we’re building cars or the plants that make them,” said Mari Kay Scott, executive director, GM Real Estate and Facilities.
Photo courtesy of General Motors.