Solar power is nothing new; you may even know a relative, neighbor, or friend with solar panels on their roof to heat the swimming pool or power part of the house. But a solar array that spans the equivalent of 32 soccer fields is impressive, to say the least… especially give that it’s exactly what GM had installed on the rooftop of Opel’s Russelsheim plant in Germany.
One of the largest in Europe, the installation is rated at 8.15 megawatts and will generate roughly 7 million kW hours of energy from sunlight. The net effect is a reduction of 3,150 tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to the amount of carbon isolated annually by 609 acres of pine forests. The array brings GM closer to doubling its global solar output.
“When we announced last year our plans to double our global solar power output by the end of 2015, we had large projects like this in mind,” said Mike Robinson, GM vice president, Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs. “And it is because of this type of progress that we are committed to increasing renewable energy use to 125 megawatts by 2020.”
The Russelsheim installation joins other GM solar arrays in European facilities, including those in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and Zaragoza, Spain; in fact, these two setups rank in the top five of the largest solar array installations in the world while being taking the crown as the world’s largest rooftop solar arrays. Altogether, The General will be capable of producing 19.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity between the three locations, equivalent to avoiding 8,200 tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere. Measured another way, that’s how much carbon 1,586 acres of pine forests eliminate annually. The Russelsheim installation is capable of feeding power directly to the plant’s grid — thereby providing electricity for vehicle production — while excess solar power is fed into the public grid of utility firm Stadtwerke Mainz.
And that’s not all: not only does the new installation exemplify GM’s commitment to increasing the use of solar power globally, but the amount of electricity generated by the three arrays produce enough electricity to supply 5,800 households with electricity per year.
“The projects we undertake in Europe are great examples of the way we roll sustainable practices into our manufacturing process,” said Robinson. “We seek out renewable energy opportunities around the world to help clean the grid, improve our bottom line, and reduce our impact on the environment.”
Indeed, not only will the solar setup decrease pollution, but it will also save the automaker money in the long run by decreasing GM’s reliance on a third party utility. And who doesn’t like that?