Ford experiments with solar, energy storage, EV charging

Ford installs solar and ev charging stations at Michigan plantFord Motor Company launched a pilot solar photovoltaic and energy storage project at its Michigan Assembly plant last week.

The solar installation will generate 500 kilowatts of power and the 750-kilowatt battery storage bank will store 2 million watt-hours, enough to power 100 average Michigan homes, according to the company’s press release.

In addition to powering the production of the company’s greenest cars, it will feed into a 10-unit electric vehicle charger that the plant will use to plug some of its moving machinery into and to test its new hybrid plug-in vehicles.

“This project seems like a very good fit for this particular plant,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Moore.

The renewable energy captured by the energy system will help power the production of Ford's all-new Focus, set to hit showrooms this month, according to the company’s press release. The plant will also produce Focus Electric, Ford's first zero-emission battery electric passenger vehicle and the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energy plug-in hybrid.

Moore said this solar and battery installation is just one of several renewable energy pilot programs Ford has implemented at various plants. The company is experimenting with everything from geothermal power, wind energy generation, and biomass to a cutting-edge paint fume recapture.

"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," Jim Tetreault, Ford vice president, North America Manufacturing, was quoted in the press release.

The project is funded through a combination of grants from DTE Energy’s pilot SolarCurrents program that calls for solar photovoltaic systems to be installed locally on customer roofs and the Michigan Public Service Commission.

“In terms of the percentage of the power the plant uses, this is a tiny amount,” Moore said. “It’s less than 1 percent. But it’s a good pilot project.”

In addition to powering the production of Ford’s electric vehicles, the project will include a 50-kilowatt-hour facility to demonstrate the potential reuse of vehicle electric batteries for stationary energy storage, according to the release. Solar industry heavyweights have been touting electric vehicle batteries as potential storage devices that could be used to offset peak demand issues with solar power generation.

“It’s an interesting project for us,” Moore said. “And we’re looking forward to seeing if it’s an appropriate project for expansion.”

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