Adding to its already having been declared a Michigan Clean Corporate Citizen, yesterday the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant broke ground on a solar panel field to help power the facility.

The 264,000 square-foot, 516-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) array in a six-acre field will be the largest in Southeastern Michigan. GM quantified its energy output as "capable of charging 150 of the electric cars with extended-range capability every day for a year – a total of 54,750 Volts."

The $3 million array will be owned and operated by DTE Energy under its SolarCurrents program, and should be completed by the end of this summer. DTE's pilot project intends over the next five years to install PV systems on other Southeastern Michigan rooftops, and at educational and business locations.

Already equipped with a number of environmental measures, the Volt-producing Detroit-Hamtramck Plant is becoming greener as we speak.

In all, DTE Energy's regional, multi-location solar project is expected to generate 15 megawatts of solar electricity for Southeastern Michigan.

As for GM’s piece of this project on its six acres at DHAM, the dollar figure attached to its energy output is an estimated $15,000 annually over a 20-year easement agreement.

The DHAM facility was chosen to receive PV first of all, because it has the space, GM said, and because it is home to the advanced-tech Volt.

“This array will significantly decrease energy consumption by combining solar power with ongoing efficiency tactics such as lighting and equipment upgrades and automating equipment shut-down,” said Bob Ferguson, vice president of GM Public Policy. “Making sustainable choices is good for both the environment and our bottom line. Obviously cost savings is critical for GM, and the ability to save $15,000 per year while being environmental serves us well.”

GM said the PV panels will face true south to maximize solar energy output, and these add to other environmental considerations already in existence at the plant.

These include a 16.5-acre certified wildlife habitat and an oxidizer that was voluntarily installed to reduce carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions.

A rendering of the proposed solar panels for Detroit-Hamtramck.

As Ferguson alluded to, the company also estimated it will save an about $3 million per year through efficient lighting upgrades and other energy efficiency projects.

Company-wide, GM said 1.4 percent of its U.S. plants’ energy consumption comes from renewable resources, and it is one of the leading users of renewable energy in the manufacturing sector.

In addition to solar, the company also derives energy for manufacturing operations from hydro, and landfill gas resources.

GM’s long-term alternative energy investments are more than a feel-good exercise, it said. They also are good business decisions.

In other news surrounding the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, GM CEO Dan Akerson announced a couple days ago it is one of 17 GM facilities that will receive new employees out of 4,200 total new hires going to eight states. The question is how many will go to Detroit-Hamtramck, and will that mean more Volt production?

“Clearly, we will play a part in that,” plant manager Teri Quigley said, “How big, I don’t know.”

One Detroit paper reported almost half of the new hires will go to DHAM, particularly for Malibu production and possibly Volt production.

The Detroit-Hamtramck Plant already has a solar-powered canopy charging station.

We will wait and see what concrete information we can learn, however, as false reports about increased production at the plant have already been made in recent months.

What is certain is the newly profitable GM is ramping up its company-wide production capabilities, and with the new solar arrays at the The Detroit-Hamtramck Plant, committing one more step toward its long term environmental policy.

“We strive to reduce the impact our facilities have on the environment,” Ferguson said, “and Detroit-Hamtramck continues to make progress in sustainability.”