Ford Motor Company is going to take steps to convert one of its plants in Wayne, Michigan, to solar energy, the auto manufacturer recently announced. This plan involves a partnership between Ford, Xtreme Power, and Detroit Edison to construct one of the largest solar power plants in the state of Michigan. This plant, which will provide energy to the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant, will initially be capable of generating 500 kilowatts (kW), but later may expand to provide more power.
Unlike other solar plants that divert excess electricity to a power grid, this plant will store its power in a 750 kW storage facility, where batteries can contain up to two million watt-hours of energy. In terms of practical applications, these batteries could light 100 homes for an entire year. These storage batteries will provide power to the manufacturing plant when there isn’t adequate sunlight to use the solar panels. Early estimates predict that this plant will save the company about $160,000 a year in power costs.
In addition to providing power to the Michigan Assembly Plant, the solar plant will help to fuel ten charging stations for electric vehicles located around the factory. These vehicles will include electric switcher trucks that transport auto parts throughout the factory. Ford officials have expressed hopes that the use of sustainable energy will help convert this assembly plant into a more modern facility, capable of meeting the changing needs of the auto industry. The plant will use the solar power to begin producing Focus and Focus Electric cars, as well as other hybrid vehicles in the future. An addition to the solar plant to be added later will provide lighting for the plant.
Detroit Edison is undertaking this project as part of the SolarCurrents program, that aims to make solar power accessible to homes and businesses in Michigan. Within the next five years, the Ford solar plant and others like it will be linked to power grids, and provide 15 megawatts of power to homes in Southern Michigan.