Detroit-based General Motors Co. has announced a power purchase agreement for a 180-megawatt solar project. It will power some of the company’s operations and allow it the option to store energy for future use for the first time. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The solar project will create the equivalent of about 47,882 U.S. homes’ electricity for one year. The energy will come from a new solar field in Arkansas originally developed by First Solar Inc. and will use photovoltaic solar modules.
The deal marks a milestone for GM – surpassing one gigawatt in renewable energy use, which equates to about 110 million LEDs. GM is currently the 11th largest off-taker of renewable power in the U.S. and the largest off-taker in the manufacturing sector.
The project will supply three GM sites in the Midwest – Wentzville Assembly in Missouri and Lansing Delta Township Assembly in Michigan will be fully powered by solar energy, and the remaining power will be allocated to Lansing Grand River Assembly.
“GM’s investment supports the use of solar technology, innovated and developed by First Solar in the United States, to power factories that form the core of the Midwest’s industrial resurgence,” says Georges Antoun, chief commercial officer for First Solar. “As America’s solar company, we’re proud to support GM’s manufacturing footprint in the Midwest with sustainable solar electricity, especially as it builds on over a century of automotive excellence and innovates toward a zero-emissions future.”
Among the world’s nine largest solar manufacturers, First Solar is the only U.S.-headquartered company. It has invested more than $1 billion in expanding its Ohio factories, has about 2,500 employees across the U.S., including more than 1,600 at its U.S. manufacturing facilities, and is working with more than 240 suppliers in Ohio.
First Solar’s proprietary thin film solar modules were developed at its research and development centers in California and Ohio and are manufactured using a process that requires less energy, water, and semiconductor material.
The company is also a pioneer in photovoltaic module circularity, recovering more than 90 percent of the materials, including its CadTel semiconductor, from every module processed at its recycling facilities in Ohio. Bringing cradle-to-cradle circularity to solar panel manufacturing, 1 kilogram of CadTel can be reused 41 times to generate two gigawatt-hours of clean energy while displacing 1,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide over 1,230 years.
“As GM continues its transition to an all-electric, zero-emissions future, it is imperative that we also invest in a cleaner grid that can support everything – from our factories to our vehicles,” says Dane Parker, chief sustainability officer for GM. “Investments like these have increased access to renewable power, and with this deal we are exploring the next frontier of renewable energy, which integrate the principles of circularity and energy storage, among others.”
GM received a 2020 Green Power Leadership Award in Excellence in the Green Power Use category from the Environmental Protection Agency. Earlier this year, GM announced two other renewable projects totaling 600 MW of solar energy, which are expected to be operational by 2023.
As GM works to meet its 100 percent renewable energy goal in the U.S., it plans to continue to help reduce emissions near communities where GM operates.