The General Motors (GM) Orion Assembly Plant in Orion, Michigan, will begin manufacturing the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano this fall, and when it does, 40 percent of the plant’s power will come from landfill gas. Using landfill gas will save GM $1.1 million a year in energy costs plus it will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 3,676 metric tons. Opened in 1983, the Orion plant has built over 4.6 million vehicles.
Orion was one of the plants GM planned to close until it decided to manufacture the Sonic there as part of a labor agreement with the United Auto Workers (UAW). When workers were laid off in fall 2009, the plant was retooled. GM invested $145 million to make the plant more efficient and prepare for the Sonic.
The plant’s upgraded lighting system saves over 5,944 megawatts (MW) of electricity a year and $430,000 and 3,676 metric tons of C02. Plant workers will use software to track energy use.
The paint shop was upgraded and is heated by natural and landfill gas. The new paint shop uses half the energy per vehicle that the old one did. Maureen Midgley, GM executive director of Global Manufacturing Engineering, said of the new paint shop, “It was designed for optimal efficiency and delivers premium paint appearance for our vehicles.”
Orion’s production lines were also reworked, “creating more space to house material onsite that once took up space in other buildings,” a press release states.
“As we converted the facility to support the small car program, we took every opportunity to engineer in flexibility and lean manufacturing concepts,” said Eric Stevens, GM vice president of Global Manufacturing Engineering.
The Orion plant received a Neighborhood Environmental Partners Program Award for its commitment to community environmental projects. In particular, the plant was cited for testing water quality around the plant and environmental education measures. The plant worked with students at a local school to monitor the water quality around the plant. Employees mentored the students as they learned how to monitor water quality. The plant also received the Clean Corporate Citizen designation by the State of Michigan.
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.