In an open press release to the public, General Motors has announced its bid to lead the automotive industry in solar energy use here in the good old U.S.A. According to a report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association, these claims are more than substantially feasible for the Detroit-based automaker. Sure, it won’t come close scratching the surface of whatever Walmart already has in place, what with its 142 megawatts of installed solar across 348 systems, but hey, at least it’s a start.
But this isn’t an ultraviolet pissing contest between two of America’s industry leaders. As far as GM is concerned, continuing its investment in clean, renewable energy, is plenty commendable even by today’s standards. Intending to break ground later this month, General Motors plans on unleashing 850 kilowatts of solar-filled glory down in Bowling Green, Ky., where it builds, houses, and occasionally crushes the world famous Chevrolet Corvette.
Decades after its initial unveiling, the Bowling Green Corvette assembly plant stands as a beacon for all things American and performance-oriented, as well as a great place to graze horses and the home of a massive sinkhole that preferred to dine on vintage Corvettes, but that’s another story for another time.
So now you are left wondering what the point of this all is outside of being a blatant publicity stunt, intended to lure addle-brained hipsters toward the purchasing of the slow-selling Chevy Volt. This isn’t just some stunt, but a genuine, industry-shaking testament to the automotive community’s investment in our environment’s future. If one were to look at future projections they would realize that GM stands to make a ton of money off this pricey investment. Small moves like this often herald the coming of industry-wide reformations.
Once the Kentucky-based plant begins rocking its fresh array of panels, it will become “the largest solar installation to ever be installed by any automaker in Kentucky and will generate 1.2 million kilowatt hours of energy annually, enough to produce about 850 Corvettes.” That’s pretty impressive, especially since GM makes good money off each Corvette sold already, so paying off the bill for all those solar cells will come quicker than one might think.
The word “super” apparently doesn’t just pertain to performance anymore, and since the Corvette boasts “the greatest efficiency of any sports car on the market today” with its EPA-estimated 29 mile per gallon highway average, it is safe to assume that clean, mean machines are officially here to stay.
“Corvette customers are passionate about their vehicles because of their design, technology and precision performance,” says Rob Threlkeld, GM global manager for renewable energy. “Offering them a product that is partially built using green energy will be another proof point that they’re driving a true supercar.”
On top of ranking as the number one automotive user of solar, GM also ranks twentieth out of the top 25 solar-powered companies in America today, a standing that the Detroit giant hopes to improve as time progresses. Partnering with SEIA back in 2013 in order to advocate a stronger U.S. solar industry presence, General Motors has been on an environmental crusade of sorts, adding 10 solar arrays to its already impressive armada, and even helped launch the Business Renewables Center alongside a host of other industry leaders, all in the hopes of accelerating renewable energy use.
In its press release, GM announced that in forthcoming months it will “add more than 2 megawatts of solar power to its facilities, including a 466-kilowatt array at its Rochester Operations facility in New York and an 800-kilowatt array at its Warren Transmission plant built in partnership with DTE Energy.” Which means that in total, the company will own an industry-leading 11.4 megawatts of solar arrays across 16 U.S. facilities. In layman’s terms, that breaks down to the passive generation of nearly 15 million kilowatt hours of energy, which eliminates the 11 million pounds of coal that would typically be incinerated to power those facilities.
While a global plan to feature a sizable solar footprint of 48 megawatts at 22 different facilities remains on the table, this plan to put 130 American football fields worth of solar cells on the earth’s surface has left us wondering if rooftops are the best place to put them. A few months back I did a piece on this road in the Netherlands that has been outfitted with solar panels, and the last time I checked, it was still running flawlessly. Appropriately named the “SolaRoad,” this ingenious invention could be the next step in powering the cars of tomorrow. So if GM really wants to impress, they should step away from just working hard at being the biggest, and maybe focus a bit on being the smartest when it comes to harnessing the sun. After all, electricity offers instant power, and the last I heard, Corvette engineers were forever looking for new ways to make their supercar even more “super.”