Ford Motor Co. has been one of the more interesting automakers to watch as it has increased its focus on sustainability in recent years. Now the company is ramping up its solar portfolio to match its efforts on recycling and using more “greener” materials within its cars.
Last week the Dearborn, Michigan-based company announced it will work with DTE Energy, a Michigan electric utility and energy services firm, to build what the companies say will be the largest solar array in Michigan. Scheduled to start construction next month with a finish date targeted for early 2015, the carport at Ford’s global headquarters will be the second-largest solar carport in the Midwest. After completion, DTE will continue to operate and maintain the installation for 20 years.
DTE will fund the project, according to a press release posted on Ford’s website. The carport will cover up to 360 parking spaces and include 30 electric vehicle charging stations. The company expects the carport to generate more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power between 150 and 160 average-sized homes. Furthermore, Ford estimates the array will offset almost 800 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Both companies benefit: Ford will pull less energy from the local grid, while DTE nudges closer towards its goal of having 10 percent of its energy from renewables by 2015. According to Ford’s Director of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure Mike Tinskey, the fact that solar prices have decreased almost 60 percent the last three years made this an attractive project for both firms.
The project piggybacks on similar initiatives going on at Ford. The two companies have already partnered on a 500 kilowatt solar installation at the automaker’s assembly plant in nearby Wayne, where some of Ford’s hybrid and electric cars are manufactured. And Ford’s River Rouge Plant has undergone a transformation in recent years with its rooftop solar and green roof.
The success of this project could be another step for the greater Detroit area’s economic shift. Much has been made of Detroit’s struggles as the Big Three automakers have taken their lumps. But despite the focus on bad news, including Motown’s bankruptcy, Detroit has slowly become a hub for clean energy and technology, startups, and sustainable business.
There’s really no excuse for Detroit not to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley and Boston, as its central location, infrastructure and universities—not to mention the lower cost of living—can help southeastern Michigan thrive in the near future. More projects like this, which in turn would attract more companies, suppliers and, of course, talent (and would keep additional talent already in Michigan), could be a long-term boost to the region far beyond what Ford and DTE gain.
Image credit: Ford Motor Co.