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Auto Makers Switch On To Solar

Posted By Paul Tate, August 03, 2011 at 10:11 AM, in Category: Sustainability

The number of global automakers harnessing solar energy to help drive their production lines and power other facilities seems to be increasing rapidly.

A couple of months ago, France’s Renault unveiled plans for what it called “the auto industry’s biggest solar energy project”. The scheme covers Renault sites at Douai, Maubeuge, Flins, Batilly, Sandouville and Cléon in France. It will generate 60 megawatts of energy and help the company cut its CO2 emissions by 30,000 tons a year.

Last week, General Motors’ venture capital arm announced an investment of $7.5 million in solar energy company Sunlogics, which will install solar canopies to support green charging stations at GM dealerships across the country. Each canopy is expected to generate enough electricity for up to 4,500 charges per vehicle a year. Sunlogics is also expected to build larger-scale solar farms to help power other GM facilities in the future.

GM already has three of the largest automotive rooftop solar power installations in the US and one of the world’s largest rooftop solar installations at its car assembly plant in Zaragoza, Spain. It has also started construction on a new solar field at its Detroit-Hamtramck Chevy Volt electric car assembly plant.

“Our GM facilities currently house 30 megawatts of solar power, and we are committing today to double that capacity to 60 megawatts over the next few years,” said Mike Robinson, GM’s vice president of energy, environment and safety.

A few days ago, Toyota announced the completion of a new ground-based solar array of 17,000 panels at its UK plant in Derbyshire. The on-site solar farm is designed to generate enough electricity to build 7,000 cars and cut up to 2,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year.

There’s still a long way to go before most of the world’s cars are built using renewable energy, but are we now seeing a growing awareness among auto companies that it’s not just their vehicles that need to be greener in the future?

Category: Sustainability
Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive


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