News Column

GM Scores High Marks for Use of Solar Power

Sept. 14, 2012

Tyrel Linkhorn


General Motors Co. is among the top corporate generators of solar power in the United States, according to a new report from a national trade association representing the U.S. solar industry.

The Solar Energy Industries Association ranked GM's on-site solar power generation capacity No. 13. GM was first in the automotive sector.

One of the automaker's biggest solar projects is a rooftop array at the GM Toledo Transmission Plant on Alexis Road that's expected to eventually generate 1.8 megawatts of electricity.

Workers started on the three-phase project in January, installing the first 80,000-square-feet worth of solar panels. Each phase generates about 600 kilowatts of power.

"That went very smoothly," said Rob Threlkeld, GM's global manager for renewable energy. "The phase has been in operation since March. Phase two, they are in the testing and commissioning phase right now. That should be coming online soon."

Mr. Threlkeld expects the third phase to be finished in November. The existing panels are already feeding power back into the plant, which makes two six-speed transmission variations that go into a variety of vehicles, including the top-selling Chevrolet Cruze.

GM paid nothing to have the array installed. Instead, it signed a 20-year contract to buy back the electricity at a rate comparable to current traditional electricity rates. Officials expect to save about $1 million over the life of the contract as traditional electricity rates outpace the increases built into their contract.

"It is performing as we thought it would. A little bit in excess for how hot and dry it was this summer," Mr. Threlkeld said.

The Toledo project is a major component of GM's push to double its current 30-megawatt global solar capacity by 2015. When it is finished, Toledo Transmission will be GM's largest rooftop array in the United States.

"GM has set an example in renewable energy within its industry and beyond," Rhone Resch, chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. "Solar helps companies reliably manage their long-term energy costs, and our top 20 companies are going solar in a big way across the nation."

The association said GM has 5.6 megawatts of solar capacity in the United States, with installations in five states. Leading the association's list was Walmart, with 65 megawatts from projects in seven states.

For more coverage on the automotive industry, please see HispanicBusiness' Auto Channel

Source: (c)2012 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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