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The Volt Goes Sunny Side Up

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author photo by Autotrader May 2011

Chevrolet has just put the "volt" into photovoltaic, the action of turning light into electricity – as in solar power. The General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck plant – where the Chevy Volt is built – will be receiving a solar array that covers more than 250,000 square feet.

The solar array is capable of generating 516 kilowatts. The installation cost is $3 million, which will be paid by DTE Energy, a Michigan-based utility company. That power is sufficient, says Chevrolet, to charge 150 Volts every day for a year. It's also enough to reduce the plant's annual electricity bill by approximately $15,000. "Obviously, cost savings are critical for GM and the ability to save $15,000 per year while being environmental serves us well" said Bob Ferguson, vice president of the company's public policy department. "Making sustainable choices is good for both the environment and our bottom line."

A similar arrangement has been made by DTE with Ford, setting up panels at the Blue Oval's Wayne, Michigan facility. That one is supposed to deliver 500 kilowatts but save $160,000 a year. DTE also contributed $3 million to fund that project, with another $2 million coming from the Michigan Public Services Commission, plus $800,000 from Ford. DTE is also exploring the feasibility of building several solar stations established in various places around the southern part of the state.

GM's new solar apparatus is part of a larger company-wide program designed to enable the use of alternative energy sources including hydro power and methane gas from landfill sites. In its domestic plants, renewable energy sources account for 1.4 percent of energy consumed, while lighting upgrades and other efficiencies are set to save the Detroit-Hamtramck plant almost $3 million a year.

This latest project is not expected to be up and running until the end of the summer, which is too bad, since Michigan is hardly known as a sun-seeker's destination during the rest of the year. But at least the panels will be facing south to get every last ray of sunlight whenever the clouds do part.

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The Volt Goes Sunny Side Up - Autotrader