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Ford Gets Its Own Solar System

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author photo by Autotrader March 2011

Drive behind a car with Michigan plates and it won't proclaim "The Sunshine State" anywhere. But that has not stopped Ford from installing solar panels to help run its assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan. It gives the company 500 kilowatts of renewable energy.

The plant's total electricity needs each year run to 20 megawatts. A megawatt is a million watts and a kilowatt is a thousand watts, so this new project is like one string in a grand piano. But in addition to being a step in the right direction, it also allows Ford to experiment with battery-powered parts transporters. And it also helps give a second life to battery packs that once powered electric vehicles.

After these packs can no longer provide sufficient range or power delivery to propel a car, they can be used as stationary energy storage. Ford will be integrating these packs with its array of the solar panels to store 750 kilowatt-hours. "This system allows us to test the viability of alternative energy to supply power for our manufacturing facilities around the world," said Jim Tetreault, vice president overseeing Ford's North American manufacturing.

There is a pleasing symmetry to this system, since the cars being made at Wayne include the all-electric version of the new-generation Ford Focus compact, plus the Focus-based C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Ten electric vehicle-charging stations are also being installed at the facility, each providing energy from solar power.

The cost has been borne mainly by DTE – a Detroit energy company that has invested $3,000,000 – plus a grant of $2,000,000 provided by Michigan Public Services Commission and $800,000 from Ford. The scheme should shave around $160,000 from the automaker's annual utility bill. Ford is presently using geothermal power in its Ohio facility, along with wind power in Belgian and British plants.

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Ford Gets Its Own Solar System - Autotrader