GM Adds Wind Power To Mexican Facilities

Baseball, hot dog, apple pie and Chevrolet are as American as can be, as the old saying goes. General Motors (GM), the company behind Chevrolet, is showing that being good to the environment is also very American. Recently, GM announced that it is procuring wind energy to power some of its manufacturing operations in Mexico. As a result, one of its plants in Mexico will run mostly on renewable energy by adding 34 megawatts of wind power to the facility. That is enough power to charge 22,500,000 Chevrolet Volts.

GM signed a power purchase agreement with Enel Green Power, the company developing and building a wind farm in Palo Alto, Mexico. Construction of the wind farm will start in the second quarter of this year. When it’s completed, over 12 percent of GM’s North American energy use will come from renewable sources, a nine percent increase. Seventy-five percent of the energy from the wind farm will power most of GM’s Toluca Complex, and that will make it GM’s facility that uses the most renewable energy. The remaining energy will help power GM’s Silao, San Luis Potusi and Ramos Arizpe complexes. Using renewable energy at these facilities will avoid almost 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, the equivalent of removing 8,421 vehicles off the road. 

Currently, GM uses 104 megawatts of solar, landfill gas and waste-to-energy power. The company’s goal is to use 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020. By adding wind power, GM believes it will reach its goal four years earlier. GM is one of the biggest industrial users of landfill gas in the U.S. Three of its manufacturing facilities are powered with landfill gas, which saved over $2 million in savings in 2013. 

Some of GM’s facilities already run partly on solar energy. GM installed 46 megawatts of solar energy at 18 of its facilities. Its global solar footprint is equivalent to 104 football fields. GM’s Silao facility had a 20 kilowatt solar array installed last year, while its Zaragoza, Spain facility had the world’s largest industrial rooftop solar array until 2012. Half of the electricity at its California distribution center is powered by solar energy, and it was the first public solar project in the U.S. over one megawatt when it started operating in 2006. Nine of its facilities have solar charging canopies on their grounds. 

GM’s other environmental initiatives

Energy reduction is important as GM clearly understands. The company reduced energy use at its global facilities by 28 percent on a per-vehicle-produced basis from 2005 to 2010 and by 10 percent from 2010 to 2013. Energy use is reduced at facilities through energy efficiency upgrades including energy efficiency lighting, tracking hourly consumption, more efficient heating and cooling systems and shutting down equipment when it is not in use. Its energy efficiency upgrades save the company $2.5 million a year at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, home of the Chevrolet Volt. 

GM has a Zero Waste movement and as part of it 122 of its facilities are landfill-free, meaning that none of the waste from the facilities ends up in a landfill. In 2005, its Flint Engine Operations in Michigan became the first GM facility to become landfill-free. There are a number of ways GM’s landfill-free facilities avoid sending waste to landfills. Its CAMI Assembly plant turns scrap wood into mulch for wetlands. Its Grand Rapids Operations recycles grinding wheels into sandpaper, and its Zaragoza and Joinville plants compost wastewater treatment sludge and organic cafeteria waste.

Photo: Chris