Ford Looks to Renewables for Production Facilities

While most major carmakers have been forced to significantly “green” their fleets with fuel economy upgrades—thanks to a looming increase in federal CAFE standards—Ford is taking things a step further at the production level. According to The Detroit News, the automaker will invest in the installation of 500 kilowatts worth of solar panels at its Wayne, Mich. production facility, and 2 million watt hours of battery storage for that energy—saving enough electricity to power 100 homes for a year.

The Wayne factory will produce the forthcoming Ford Focus EV, and possibly a new Lincoln crossover SUV in 2013. “Our Michigan Assembly plant is going to be the next-generation vehicle center of the universe for next year or so,” electricity supply manager Jeff White told the paper. “It just makes sense to bring this solar project to (the plant) so we can better understand how sustainable energy is developed.”

Ford says that the installation will save roughly $160,000 in annual energy costs, but the move is also part of a broader strategy to become a more environmentally-friendly carmaker. Thanks to $3 million in funding from Detroit Edison and $2 million from the Michigan Public Service Commission, the company will only have to contribute $800,000 to the project, allowing it to recover its initial investment in just five years.

Ford would like to trim as much from its $9 million annual energy costs as possible, but the Wayne upgrades don’t represent the carmaker’s first endeavor into renewables. Three percent of the company’s global energy usage already comes from wind and solar, which to this point had come entirely from its European plants. In the future, Ford would also like to retool its Wixom plant to manufacture solar and battery equipment.

In June, we interviewed Ford technical director Debbie Mielewski about the company’s plan to reduce emissions and plastics consumption, with the eventual goal of making their lineup out of materials that are 100 percent hydrocarbon-free. Ford has also announced plans to make their cars 100 percent recyclable as well.

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  • Old Man Crowder

    Ford is taking a truly holisitic approach to their operations. I like it.

    Although saving $160K on a $9 million energy bill amounts to less than 2%, every little bit helps I say.

    Add that to their massive green roof, use of soy-based plastics and fabrics, and vehicle recyclability…

    Good job, Ford!

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Excellent step in the right direction Ford. It sounds like its only a baby step but it is in the right direction.
    I hear too much emphasis on cleaning up home energy use as well as transportation but not enough on cleaning up industrial energy use.

  • zach

    Agreed, ex-EV1. During the greenwashing boom several years ago, we heard a lot about companies putting a few miniature windmills on top of their headquarters and a few “tests” of on-site renewables, but Ford seems to actually be dedicated to turning this into a long-term, money saving strategy. If we’re going to be serious about lowering emissions, industrial energy needs to get a lot cleaner, and until the grid stops being powered mostly by fossil fuels, these sorts of steps are the only real way to do that.

  • veek

    Excellent direction for Ford. If I were working in a greener plant, I’d think greener, too. This will also benefit other manufacturers, and Ford’s ideas and experience will surely help them as well.

  • calvin

    Ford has over 60 factories in other countries. Will they also be implementing these policies in those places as well? And what about the existing factories? “Greening” a single manufacturing plant is a publicity stunt (especially when you’ve been pushing bigger and more powerful cars for decades, and effectively creating a horsepower arms-race amongst automakers), but implementing environmentally conscious policies across all factories is sign of a genuine effort at responsible corporate citizenship.

    After all, it does no good to reduce emissions at one U.S. factory and just offset it with a dozen “dirty” factories in Mexico or China–countries where corporations aren’t bound by such stringent environmental regulations.