General Motors (GM) announced a commitment last year to double its solar use from its current 30 megawatts (MW) to 60 MW by 2015. GM’s newly installed 8.15 MW solar rooftop array on its Opel Rüsselsheim facility in Germany will help the car company meet its target. The solar array is one of the largest in Europe, equivalent to the area of 32 soccer fields, and represents a carbon reduction of about 3,150 tons a year, or equal to the amount of carbon isolated every year by 609 acres of pine forests. It will generate about 7.3 million kilowatt hours (kW) and will feed into the grid of the plant to be used to produce vehicles. Excess solar power will feed into the public grid.
GM’s combined European solar installations are capable of producing 19.1 kWh of electricity from solar energy. That is equivalent to avoiding 8,200 tons of carbon emissions, or the amount of carbon 1,586 acres of pine forests would sequester a year. One of the company’s solar installations in Europe, located in its Zaragoza, Spain facility, is the largest rooftop solar array in the world. It generates 12 MW of energy, or enough electricity to power 1,500 Spanish homes.
“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.”
Solar at U.S. facilities
GM’s first solar array in California, at its Service Parts Distribution Center in Rancho Cucamonga, was the first solar project in the U.S. generating over one MW when it first operated in 2006. Today, 50 percent of that distribution center’s electricity is powered by solar. Another California facility, GM’s Parts Distribution Center in Fontana, CA, has a one MW solar array which generates about 1.3 kWh of electricity a year, enough to power 200 homes for one year. The solar array at the Fontana facility prevents 355 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Both that array and the Rancho Cucamonga one give excess power back to the grid.
Two other GM facilities in the U.S. which have solar arrays help put electric vehicles (EVs) on the road. The Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant is the home of the Chevrolet Volt. In 2010, a 516 KW power array was added, which is enough electricity to charge 150 Chevrolet Volts daily for a year. The Baltimore Operations is an electric motor plant slated to open in 2013, and when it does it will be the first U.S. automotive plant dedicated to making parts for EVs. It will also be powered by a 1.23 MW rooftop solar array, which will provide about nine percent of its annual energy use, and will prevent up to 1,103 metric tons of carbon emissions a year.