General Motors is set to become the first and only automaker in North America to generate its own electricity in the spring of next year thanks to a $24 million investment to retrofit factories in Orion, Michigan — where the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano are built — and the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana to convert more renewable landfill gas into electricity.
“With this project, we are converting landfill gas into our own electricity, which, in essence, allows us to act as our own utility,” notes GM co-generation project manager Bill Mortimer. When the project is finished, the Orion plant will get 54% and the Fort Wayne plant 40% of their energy from renewable landfill gas. Both factories have been getting a small portion of their energy from landfills in recent years. The Fort Wayne plant was recently certified by the U.S. EPA as an Energy Star facility on account of its energy-efficient management.
“We have made a public commitment to increase our use of renewable energy within GM to 125 megawatts by 2020,” according to Rob Thelkeld, GM global manager of renewable energy. And with over 14 megawatts of electricity generated from these two plants alone, GM will have already met more than 10% of that goal.
The move will save an estimated 89,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year – or, the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of 18,542 cars. What’s more is the company will not only be helping to reduce carbon emissions, it will also be saving money on energy costs. Approximately $10 million a year will be saved as a result of the current project, which means that it will basically pay for itself within the next two to three years. Something that more people are beginning to realize about renewable energy sources is that even though they often require a relatively high start-up cost, they pay for themselves over the course of a few years. In the long run, renewable energy sources almost always save money, and their good for the environment and public health.
Projects at both the Fort Wayne and Orion plants are expected to be complete and fully operational by May of 2014. Right around the same time GM’s Hamtramck assembly plant will start getting most of its electricity from solid municipal waste converted to steam – yet another renewable energy source which will, of course, save the company tons of money in energy costs.