Michigan Avenue, a parking lot sits abandoned in the city of
Detroit. No longer used for events, the vacant space has little
purpose for now. Soon, however, it will be transformed into a
power plant providing electricity to Dearborn, Michigan-based
Ford Motor Company's Michigan Assembly Plant.Xtreme Power, an
Austin-based energy solutions firm, is partnering with utility DTE
Energy's Michigan subsidiary Detroit Edison to roll out the
solution. Alongside the 500 kilowatts worth of panels will be a
battery storage facility which will soak up 2 million watt-hours of
energy to dispense when needed.The partnership with Ford is
certainly eye catching -- after all, the Michigan Assembly Plant is
the former SUV assembly plant that is being
converted to produce the plug-in
Ford Focus Electric Hybrid which will go on sale next year.
Ford plans to build more electric models at the plant in the
future.Jeff White, electricity supply manager for Ford North
America, comments, "Our Michigan Assembly plant is going to be
the next-generation vehicle center of the universe for next year or
so. It just makes sense to bring this solar project to (the plant) so
we can better understand how sustainable energy is
developed."Despite that optimism, there are some caveats
to the plan. First, the installation won't produce enough
electricity to actually power the
plant's heavy machines. Instead it will be devoted to supplying
lower power devices like the plant's lighting. Using ten
on-site charging stations, it will also charge electric trucks that
will transport parts to the facility.These small
contributions will definitely add up. Ford expects to save
$160,000 USD a year.Considering that, the installation is a
very good deal for Ford -- especially when the installation costs are
considered. Overall the facility will cost $5.8M USD to build,
but Ford is only paying $800,000 USD -- roughly 13 percent of the
total costs. The Michigan Public Service Commission will pick
up $2M USD of the bill via grants, and Detroit Edison will pay for
$3M USD of the project. The new station will be
funded by Detroit Edison under the Solar Currents program.
Detroit Edison has been encouraging customers to voluntarily pay a
small premium on their electric bills to support green power, which
is likely where some of this funding arises from. The plant
produces enough electricity to power 100 homes. While Ford will
likely consume some of this, Detroit Edison may pump some of it to
consumers, as well.The installation isn't Ford's first
alternative energy collaboration. In Germany and the UK, solar
and wind installations provide power to Ford facilities.
Globally, Ford spends $9M USD a year on energy and only 3 percent
comes from renewable sources.One promising possibility would
be for Ford to seek partnerships to build small
nuclear power plants near its production facilities.
Such a plant would be more affordable than wind or solar
installations and could produce
enough power to operate industrial machinery. Ford has
announced no plans to push for such an installation, as of yet,
unfortunately.In related news, Ford is selling its shuttered
Wixom, Michigan plant to Xtreme Power and Clairvoyant Power of Santa
Barbara, Calif. The pair will retool the plant to produce solar
and battery equipment. The plant could employ 4,300 in
unemployment-stricken Michigan. It's still struggling to find
financing, though, which puts its status up in the air.
quote: Everything gets grants these days, just take fossil fuels, it gets around ten times more than renewables!
quote: "Using information from North Carolina, the study shows that solar power may be more cost efficient than nuclear power."
quote: note that I excluded... ...wood
quote: Solar cells degrade over time, even if properly maintained (and maintenance costs never seem to find their way into the cost calculations). Most have guarantees of only 25 to 50 percent of their new capacity after 25 years.