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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, March 2011
WEB Exclusive story

Take Me to the Pilot

The primary part of one of Michigan’s largest solar power generation systems at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant is now up and running, delivering renewable energy to help power the production of fuel-efficient small cars. The system is the result of collaboration between Ford, DTE Energy, Xtreme Power, the city of Wayne and the state of Michigan.
Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford takes a big step toward solar
energy use at manufacturing sites.


n-site renewable power continues to gain traction as a viable alternative on company-owned property. It's even helping drive the manufacture of drivable alternatives.

Ford announced March 11 that the primary part of one of Michigan's largest solar power generation systems at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant is now up and running, delivering renewable energy to help power the production of the Focus and Focus Electric models, as well as the C-MAX hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. The system is the result of collaboration between Ford, DTE Energy, Xtreme Power, the City of Wayne and the state of Michigan.

The solar energy system will serve as a pilot alternative energy project to be evaluated for possible use at other Ford manufacturing facilities in the future. A secondary, smaller solar energy system will be integrated at Michigan Assembly to power lighting systems at the plant.

"This solar energy system allows us to test the viability of alternative energy to supply power for our manufacturing facilities around the world. It serves as a significant initiative within our corporate emphasis on sustainability," said Jim Tetreault, Ford vice president, North America Manufacturing. "Michigan Assembly Plant has been transformed into a facility that embodies our drive for flexible manufacturing and strives for new standards for green manufacturing."

Ford collaborated with DTE Energy to install the 500-kilowatt solar photovoltaic panel system at Michigan Assembly. The system will be integrated with a 750-kilowatt energy storage facility that can store 2 million watt-hours of energy using batteries — enough to power 100 average Michigan homes for a year. The project will also include a 50-kilowatt-hour facility to demonstrate the potential reuse of vehicle electric batteries for stationary energy storage. Xtreme Power of Austin, Texas, is supplying its Dynamic Power Resource on-site energy storage and power management system.

Completing the Circle

In one of Site Selection's Top Deals of 2009, Xtreme and Clairvoyant Energy pledged to invest in the transformation of Ford's plant in Wixom, Mich., for the manufacture of solar panels and renewable energy storage systems. The overall complex is envisioned as a renewable energy industrial park.

Among the transformation's funding sources is a still pending DOE loan guarantee, which was initially a condition for state tax credits. However, last summer a special measure passed by the Michigan legislature amended the state's agreement to allow Xtreme to garner up to US$100 million in Michigan Business Tax credits over four years even if other financing options such as conventional financing or recovery zone facility bonds are pursued.

The solar energy installation is part of DTE Energy's pilot SolarCurrents program that calls for photovoltaic systems to be installed on customer rooftops or property over the next five years to generate 15 megawatts of electricity throughout southeast Michigan.

The Michigan Assembly project is funded by a $3-million investment from DTE Energy'sSolarCurrents program, a $2-million grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission in support of the state's smart-grid initiative, and approximately $800,000 worth of in-kind contributions from Ford.

Ford will install 10 electric vehicle charging stations at Michigan Assembly to demonstrate advanced battery charging technologies for vehicles using renewable energy and other smart-grid advances. The stations will be used to recharge the electric switcher trucks that transport vehicle parts between adjacent buildings at the manufacturing site. Part of the pilot project involves a demonstration of the possibility for using electrified vehicle batteries as stationary power storage devices after their useful life as vehicle power sources is over.

Michigan Assembly will operate on a blend of renewable and conventional electricity. Renewable energy collected by the solar system will go into the plant's electrical distribution system to help provide power. When the plant is inactive, the collected solar energy will go into the Dynamic Power Resource storage system for later use, providing power during periods of insufficient or inconsistent sunlight.

The plant's energy storage system will be able to recharge from the smart grid during off-peak hours when energy is available at a lower cost. This in turn can provide inexpensive power during peak operating hours when the cost per kilowatt-hour is usually higher, and can help reduce peak demand on the grid.

"The Michigan Assembly Plant solar array builds on Ford's other renewable energy initiatives including geothermal energy in Ohio and wind energy in the U.K. and Belgium," said Donna Inch, chairman and CEO, Ford Land. "This is one more step in our journey toward sustainability."

The Site Selection Energy Report features exclusive and in-depth reporting and analysis on the most important energy projects and energy policy issues impacting the world of manufacturing and industrial real estate. Topics covered include oil and gas projects, investments into alternative energy installations and R&D, tax credits and financing, electric utility issues and much more.

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