GM invests in wind power as part of electric vehicle push

Eric Lawrence
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT -- General Motors is making a big investment in wind power.

Windmills near Lamar, Colo.

The automaker has announced that it is purchasing 200 megawatts of wind energy from wind farms in Ohio and Illinois, and that once the turbines are online next year, 20%  of the company's global electricity usage will be powered by renewables. The electricity generated will supply seven plants, including those that make the Chevrolet Cruze and Silverado and GMC Sierra light-duty pickups.

GM announced last year that it intends to source all electricity needs at its facilities worldwide with renewable energy by 2050.

Details about the cost for the wind power purchase were not released, but the company noted a connection to the push for zero-emission vehicles. Those include electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Bolt.

One of the criticisms of zero-emission vehicles as a cleaner transportation mode is that making the energy to power them still causes pollution, if not as much, just not through the tailpipe.

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"As GM works toward advancing zero-emissions vehicles, it makes business sense to create a cleaner grid on which to drive them. The company uses (electric vehicle) batteries in tandem with a solar array to power an office building at its Milford Proving Ground in Michigan and is researching the use of fuel cells as energy storage in the future," it said.


Rob Threlkeld, GM global manager of renewable energy, said that through a "pragmatic strategy, companies can turn ambitious renewable energy goals into action and scale quickly.”

Threlkeld said that the cost to produce wind power continues to drop, making it more feasible to use as a power source in areas closer to most of GM's manufacturing plants.

The company said its wind power purchases will be "enough to meet the electricity needs of Ft. Wayne Assembly, Marion Metal Center and Bedford Casting plants in Indiana and Lordstown Assembly, Defiance Casting Operations, Parma Metal Center and Toledo Transmission plants in Ohio."

Starwood Energy Group will provide half of the energy through its Northwest Ohio Wind farm in Van Wert and Paulding counties, and Swift Current Energy will provide the rest through its HillTopper Wind Project in Logan County, Ill., the release said.

GM says it made its first wind power purchase in 2014 for several Mexican facilities; uses solar power at 26 locations; and gets electricity from landfill gas at two assembly plants. The company says it saves about $5 million each year using renewable energy.