Nothing like a hot Michigan summer to power a few homes.

General Motors is making good use of that sun by building a solar array on a two-acre plot of land next to its Orion factory, which is about 40 miles north of Detroit. GM is partnering with Detroit-based utility DTE Energy on the project, which involves a 350-kilowatt array that will be able to provide power to the equivalent of about 45 typical Michigan houses. The factory, which was built in 1983, produces about 10,000 vehicles a year, including the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano models. The array is part of the U.S. automaker's effort to double the solar power production used at its factories to 60 megawatts by 2015.

In January, GM released its first annual sustainability report since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009 and said that it met many of its goals to cut its carbon footprint, including making more than 80 factories landfill-free and having them recycle more than 92 percent of their waste. Just this week, GM said it now has 100 "landfill-free" facilities. The automaker said it was looking to further reduce its plants' carbon footprint by 20 percent and also reduce water use by 15 percent. Details below.
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Orion Assembly to Pull Energy from the Sun

Solar array to provide enough energy to power 45 Michigan homes

LAKE ORION, Mich. – A field next to General Motors' Orion Assembly Plant, home of the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano, will soon hold a solar array with enough capacity to annually power 45 homes in Michigan.

The energy from the 350-kilowatt array owned by DTE Energy will be sent back to the grid for use by area homes and businesses. In total, the energy saved will be equivalent to avoiding 261 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

"Last year, we committed to doubling our global solar output at our facilities from 30 megawatts to 60 by 2015," said Mike Robinson, GM vice president, Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs. "We believe in harnessing energy from clean, renewable sources because there a solid business case to be made and it's good for the environment. This array reinforces our progress."

The array is part of DTE Energy's SolarCurrents pilot program that calls for the installation of photovoltaic systems on customer rooftops or property during the next three years. The goal is to generate 15 megawatts of electricity throughout Southeast Michigan.

"SolarCurrents builds on our long partnership with GM to help it become as energy-efficient as possible," said Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president, Marketing & Renewables. "Our partnership with GM is another example of how our companies work to build a more energy-efficient and sustainable future."

DTE Energy will build the array on a two-acre parcel facing south to maximize output. It will provide power to local housing and businesses.

The solar array is the latest aspect of Orion's environmental efforts.

The facility is powered by gas from two nearby landfills, saving $1.1 million per year and cutting the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides released into the air. This saves more than 6,300 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Lighting upgrades in the plant have saved $575,895 while also cutting CO2 by 5,003 metric tons through the use of software that allows plant employees to track energy usage in real-time to improve efficiencies. This is equivalent to the energy used by 442 homes.

A new eco paint process that eliminates the need for a primer oven is heated by landfill gas, and uses half of the energy per vehicle of the one it replaced. With these paint process improvements, the plant has potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 80,000 metric tons at a full three-shift capacity, which is equivalent to averting the emissions from 14,000 vehicles per year.

In the United States alone, 2.1 percent of GM's energy consumption comes from renewable resources.

For more information on GM's environmental commitment, visit its sustainability report and environmental blog.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM's brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.

DTE Energy (NYSE:DTE) is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Its operating units include Detroit Edison, an electric utility serving 2.1 million customers in Southeastern Michigan, MichCon, a natural gas utility serving 1.2 million customers in Michigan and other non-utility, energy businesses focused on gas storage and pipelines, unconventional gas production, power and industrial projects, and energy trading. Information about DTE Energy is available at dteenergy.com, twitter.com/dte_energy and facebook.com/dteenergy.


GM Reaches Century Mark in Landfill-Free Facilities
Automaker recycled or reused 2.6 million metric tons at its plants worldwide in 2011


2012-06-19

LANSING, Mich. – A single plastic bag of household garbage represents more trash going to a landfill than 100 General Motors facilities combined.

GM recently added its 100th landfill-free facility – a parts distribution center in Lansing, Mich. It is a milestone in the company's ongoing waste-reduction efforts. No other automaker has as many facilities contributing zero waste to landfill.

GM first reduces waste and then focuses on recycling and reuse. In 2011, it recycled or reused 2.6 million metric tons at its facilities worldwide. That is equivalent to more than 38 million trash bags. Or, more than a month's worth of trash for every resident in New York City. GM recycles more waste from its worldwide facilities than any other automaker.

"Our landfill-free program continues to strengthen our business by creating efficiencies, generating revenue and inspiring innovation with products made from recycled content," said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Sustainability and Global regulatory affairs. "It's a mission that's integrated within our business processes. Everyone here plays a role in its success."

GM began tracking its waste 15 years ago, and, armed with this insight, improves its recycling each year. All of its worldwide facilities combined – including landfill-free plants and all others – recycle or reuse more than 90 percent of the waste they generate.

"One of GM's secrets to success is its cultivation of a strong network of suppliers committed to recycling materials and keeping them in use," said Steve Hellem, executive director of Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, a forum for automakers, suppliers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Their team regularly facilitates conversations, connects companies and even showcases creative recycling examples for others."

In conjunction with its suppliers, GM recycles scrap cardboard from various plants into a sound absorber on the Buick Lacrosse and Verano interior roof. Air deflectors on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks are made with used tires from the automaker's proving ground. GM regularly shares its recycling best practices with companies of all sizes and industries.

In its first sustainability report as a new company, GM committed to achieve 25 more landfill-free sites and reduce total waste by another 10 percent by 2020. Since 1997, the company has reduced total waste by at least 43 percent.

In 2011, GM reduced total waste generated per vehicle by 5 percent at its global manufacturing facilities. Its recycling and reuse efforts last year avoided 10 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions. GM's landfill-free roster includes more than half of its global manufacturing facilities.

Independent sustainability agency Two Tomorrows audited GM's landfill-free and recycling leadership. For more information on GM's environmental commitment, visit its sustainability report and environmental blog.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM's brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 57 Comments
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      I based my statement that gas dryers are more efficient than electric dryers on the measurements made by the California Energy Commission. "The energy efficiency of a clothes dryer is measured by a term called the energy factor. It's a rating somewhat similar to miles per gallon for a car - but in this case, the measure is pounds of clothing per kilowatt-hour of electricity. The minimum energy factor for a standard capacity electric dryer is 3.01. For gas dryers, the minimum energy factor is 2.67" http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/appliances/dryers.html
      Ryan
      • 2 Years Ago
      They need to update their 'typical' house, or people need to use less power. Although heating and cooling use a lot of power that I avoid, I can get by with a 1.7kW solar array to power my house. But you can see why it is better for individuals to create small scale solar over the big ones that cost a lot. However, it is great that they are building it for a factory. Big box stores should have them on their roofs.
        Naturenut99
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ryan
        State................customers.... Avg. kwh's Monthly....Per kwh Rate.......AVG Monthly Bill Michigan ........4,290,313.......667...........................$0.1075...................$71.58" from: http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/esr/table5.html *** couldnt leave the triple 6 in there for avg monthly. That turns into an avg. of 21.89 kwh's per day. As an avg. for all customers using a lot and those using little. It's not a horrible avg. Granted, still can come down. 350 kwh sys. in Michigan at about 3 hrs a day avg. = 1,050 kwh's per day produced 1,050 / 45 = 23.33 kwh's per house. So they could of said 47.96 avg. homes. I would of given them credit for saying about 50. But they low balled how much it produces.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ryan
        Yeah, they do need to adjust their usage. They need to switch all heating tasks to natural gas, swap out all incandescents for CFLs or LEDs, and get rid of some really old inefficient appliances. Those relatively easy changes would slash their electricity demands.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ryan
        How do you dry your clothes? I turn on my clothes dryer and bam, that's 3kW right there.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          As has been mentioned many times, gas dryer. If something involves heat, you should be using gas, a heat pump, solar thermal, or geothermal. Electric heat is terribly expensive and should be avoided when ever possible. That is true for dryers, household heating, pool heaters, hot water heaters, stoves, etc.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Spec: I'm talking about efficiency, not cost. Again, I know gas is cheaper, my point isn't that I can't understand how gas is cheaper it is that I cannot understand why a gas dryer would be more efficient than a resistive electric one. And I have solar panels, so if I use gas I have to pay for it and use fossil fuels, if I use electricity I can just put up more panels.
        Anne
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ryan
        In addition to noelmwood: Here's a link: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2011/04/bosch-unveils-new-40-less-energy-tumble-dryer-249315/
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      It also takes more than 1 Joule of energy to deliver 1 Joule of gas to my house. When I spoke of my heat pump being more efficient than my gas heater, that wasn't really my point. My point was that even though my gas heater consumes 3x the energy of my heat pump, my gas heater is the same price or cheaper to run. I was showing that price to run doesn't correlate to energy used very well when you are using different forms of energy in each case. Thanks for the info on amount of clothes dried per Joule of energy with the two kinds of dryers. I cannot comprehend why a gas dryer would be more efficient than a resistive heat one, but there it is in black and white so I'm going to accept it as true. I'm not surprised to hear there are dryers that actually remove moisture out there, I had thought of it a while back and I'm not one to think I'm unique. I'll try to look for one next time. I'd like to see an adsorptive drier too. Where there is a chemical (desiccant) which actually pulls moisture from the drier air, then is regenerated to work over and over. This would of course require energy input but it could easily be less than just trying to bake the water out as a normal drier does.
      SVX pearlie
      • 2 Years Ago
      gas dryer, of course.
      Mark Schaffer
      • 2 Years Ago
      SNP goes by a false name and then wants to be considered a credible source of information. Is anyone buying the uninformed nonsene it is posting?
      Mark Schaffer
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well I see "SNP", posting under it's real name, is immune to knowledge as well as lying about who it is. The bozone layer is impenetrable around it and because of relying on faulty memory it makes unsupported assertions. Anyone here buying the crappy information it is attempting to impart?
      • 2 Years Ago
      What nobody seems to get about solar energy, that in the - not too - long run it will be simply significantly cheaper than even coal (as well as probably anything else). Not to mention, that it virtually lasts forever (at least until life is possible on Earth). Important fact about our Sun: In just 5 days, the amount of energy it radiates to the Earth is equivalent to that of all fossil fuels we have / had ever. Good to know: the primary resource of all fossil fuels is our Sun too (I don't explain here why, but you can easily google it). In a more practical sense: soon - or e.g. in Germany etc. even today - you'll be able to sell your solar panel's excess energy back to the grid, which will be a very effective source of income (thus - apart from charging your EV / powering your house - solar can even generate significant profit for you). This technology called "virtual power plants" in which software intelligently controls vast numbers of small power sources (and, eventually, distributed storage sites) to coördinate their output for sale on energy markets. It can transform thousands of renewable energy sources, - each of which alone is unreliable - into a vast network that utilities can depend on. Incidentally: in the U.S. solar is the fastest growing industry today (you can also google the source). And - when we eventually used up all of our fossil etc. resources - we will still have the Sun, so in the very long run nothing stands a chance up against the Sun ('s energy). #aboutthesuninanutshell
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        krisztiant The biggest issue is..........they only work when the sun is shining. The sun doesn't shine very bright in Detroit, so you can be sure that the solar arraw won't be producing at its max output.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Nick
          Nick, The Sun doesn't really shine in Germany too, but it somehow works out for even them (especially considering the future distributed storage sites system).
        BipDBo
        • 2 Years Ago
        "What nobody seems to get about solar energy, that in the - not too - long run it will be simply significantly cheaper than even coal " Maybe some day, but today, that's far from the case. Business owners only imply solar when they have the opportunity to show it off, and much of it is paid for through some sort of subsidy of tax break. I think it's a mistake to extrapolate into a future of affordable solar power by looking at current incremental improvements. "Not to mention, that it virtually lasts forever." Nothing lasts forever and PVs are cetainly no exception. They have a realistic expectancy of 20-30 years. Maybe someday, that will be much longer, but that's the case now. http://homepower.com/article/?file=hp118_pg12_asktheexperts_1
          BipDBo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BipDBo
          @krisztiant "BipDBo, Either you are a sceptic or not, solar energy already became a viable business in itself (and the fastest growing one in the U.S.). No need for scepticism." No, it has not. Solar would not exist without mandates or heavy subsidies.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BipDBo
          The California subsidy in my case was about 7%. Very low. In other cities it's higher. It really is minor, only the Federal tax rebate is left as a big subsidy. And it's pretty big if you're in a high tax bracket.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BipDBo
          • BipDBo: "Maybe some day, but today, that's far from the case..." Not so far as you would think... We have now even "Demi Moore’s Law" on photovoltaics. (Demi means half in French and salutes Dr. Moore’s courage to take on executive positions that required partial nudity / just kidding.) Solar modules prices have dropped from $300 per watt in 1956 to $50 per watt in the 1970s to $10 in the 90s to $1.05 a watt today. Manufacturing costs have dropped to 75 cents a watt at First Solar’s factories. Under the SunShot program, solar energy will decline to $1 per watt—a price that includes installation, modules, and electronics—by 2017 or so. And as Forbes summarizes this process (i.e. how we get there): "Don’t underestimate this cultural revolution. This collective brainpower is what the fossil fuel industry should really fear." • BipDBo: "Nothing lasts forever and PVs are cetainly no exception. They have a realistic expectancy of 20-30 years" I was clearly talking about our Sun ('s solar energy) BipDBo. And our Sun has a realistic life expectancy of another 5 billion years,  Since, the Sun will be able to fuse hydrogen into helium in its core at about the same rate for another 5 billion years, before it will enter a red giant phase and life becomes impossible on Earth. That's why I wrote: "it virtually lasts forever (at least until life is possible on Earth)." Consider this, please.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BipDBo
          "Maybe some day, but today, that's far from the case. Business owners only imply solar when they have the opportunity to show it off, and much of it is paid for through some sort of subsidy of tax break." The California subsidy has dropped to near zero and installations are still going like crazy. The only significant tax-break is the Federal one if that were removed, installations would definitely slow but some would still go one. The price of PV panels has dropped by more than 50% in the last few years and that makes a big difference. When comparing to coal, here are some differences to consider: -PV is intermittent but it generates its power when it is needed . . . hot sunny days. -PV can be generated where it is consumed so less need for transmission lines. -Since PV is generated where it is consumed, you use the wholesale rates for comparison not the wholesale rates. PV is a great part of an overall mix of sources. It is obviously best in sunny lower latitudes but it does work everywhere.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BipDBo
          BipDBo, Either you are a sceptic or not, solar energy already became a viable business in itself (and the fastest growing one in the U.S.). No need for scepticism.
          BipDBo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BipDBo
          I hope that you're right, but I'll believe it when I see it. Maybe affordable solar will come around along with affordable flying cars, jet packs, or butler robots. Solar installations have been growing in California not because othey are marketable, but because they have been mandated by Arnold's executive order, S-14-08. Call me a skeptic.
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      Gas dryers are cheaper to run, I dunno about more efficient. Let me put it this way, it is projected my heat pump will cost me about the same amount to run as my gas furnace would. My gas furnace is a whopping 96% efficient too! But my heat pump is 300% efficient (moves about 3kW of heat for each kW of electricity it uses). The reason gas appliances are cheaper to run isn't necessarily because they are more efficient, just that gas is a lot cheaper per Joule than electricity is. Why would a person who has a solar array brag about their gas furnace? I mean hey, if you got a Diesel generator you could make your solar array even smaller!
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      SNP: My panels came from Germany (Aleo). Are you sure Spain bought theirs from the US or China? I think your idea that it is solar panels that broke Spain to be tenuous at best. And why are you dumping on me for my solar panels? I did the math. The payback is about 8-9 years. I don't have an EV yet. So you can just throw your idea I paid $40K to Nissan out the window. I'm not a believer in Bloomboxes yet. If they are so dang cost-effective you'd see the power generating companies putting fields of them in instead of natural gas cogeneration plants.
      Anne
      • 2 Years Ago
      I agree that PV is more sexy than efficiency, but with efficiency you eventually get bitten by the law of diminishing returns. In many cases efficiency will be cheaper than PV, but each case must be judged on its own merits. It is not a golden rule. So it might be that they already did everything to reduce consumption and now the next logical step is PV.
        Anne
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Anne
        This was meant to be a reply to BipDBo
      Julius
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wonder how much of Detroit's blighted real-estate landscape could be converted to a solar/wind farm... maybe not as far-fetched an idea as once thought, as others have talked about reverting to in-city (actual) farming...
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      Those stats just show how important efficient lighting is. Efficient lighting contributes 20x as much as the solar array in this case. And I doubt their main lighting was incandescent before.
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