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Renewable Briefing: GM, APS, BoDean, US Army, Ikea

General Motors has announced plans to build a 516 kW solar array at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, which produces the Chevrolet Volt electric car. The 264,000 square foot system, to be built on six acres, will generate electricity capable of charging 150 of the electric cars every day for a year.

GM said the array will save the facility about $15,000 a year. It expects to complete construction on the system by the end of the summer.

“This array will significantly decrease energy consumption by combining solar power with ongoing efficiency tactics such as lighting and equipment upgrades and automating equipment shut-down,” said Bob Ferguson, vice president of GM Public Policy. Energy efficiency projects will save the plant almost $3 million a year, GM said.

The company said that 1.4 percent of its energy consumption in the U.S. comes from renewables.

Aggregate and asphalt supplier the BoDean Company is going 100 percent solar, according to Rock Products magazine, via the North Bay (Calif.) Business Journal. The company installed about 3,444 solar panels, totalling 1.165 MW, on a restored south-southwest facing slope at its Mark West Quarry.

The construction cost was $3 million, but Bodean took advantage of a $1 million federal grant, and will receive rebates from utility Pacific Gas & Electric of $100,000 per year over the next five years. BoDean will also enjoy 30 percent tax depreciation allowances and investment tax credits, the magazine said.

BoDean expects the facility to pay for itself in seven years. The company spends about $25,000 a month on electricity to power four rock crushers, washers and pumps.

IKEA has powered up yet another solar power system. The furniture retailer flipped the switch on a 1.8 MM, 370,000 square-foot array at its southwestern U.S. distribution center in Tejon, Calif. The rooftop array of 7,980 panels from REC Group is expected to produce 2.88 million kWh of electric power annually, IKEA said.

The company has solar energy systems operational at four U.S. stores, including ones in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Burbank, Calif. It is installing systems at nine other locations, including a Centennial, Colo., store that will also feature a geothermal system.

Utility Arizona Public Service Company says it produced a record amount of renewable energy in 2010. Last year its customers received 826,534 megawatt-hours of renewable energy, 26 percent more than the previous year, the utility says.

Renewables powered more than three percent of all customer needs, on track to meet goals of ten percent by 2015 and 15 percent by 2025, the company says. APS buys renewable energy from developers, owns its own facilities and subsidizes installations on customer homes and businesses. The energy comes from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and biogas generation sources.

In 2010 APS facilitated groundbreaking on one of the largest solar plants in the world, the 250 MW Solana Generation Station, which is expected to come online in 2013. It also signed agreements for construction of multiple company-owned renewable projects.

Finally, the New York Times reports that the U.S. Army Corps of engineers has run into obstacles as it seeks to install renewable power at a future Afghan security facility. The corps said plans for a 1 MW wind turbine will have to be scrapped.

“The roads won’t support it. You can’t get a crane large enough out there to support it,” said Frank Holcomb, a senior energy official at the U.S. Army’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory.

Instead, the corps is planning to install several smaller, 10 kW turbines.

The corps also said waste-to-energy technology is also likely not to be feasible at the site, except perhaps for the manufacture of fuel bricks from trash with a low-tech compacter.

Ground-based solar panels are also being replaced in the plan by roof-based panels, which would not be at the same risk of vandalism or theft. The planned power capacity is being scaled back from 2 MW to several hundred kilowatts.

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