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Large solar array planned at Ford headquarters

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it’s teaming up with Detroit-based utility DTE Energy to build a 68,000-square-foot solar array at the automaker’s Dearborn world headquarters.

The solar panels, which will top a series of covered parking spaces in front of Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn, will help power electric vehicle charging stations and corporate offices.

It’s part of Ford’s commitment to showing it’s environmentally friendly, which includes everything from saving water to building lighter, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. And it’s the latest example of an automaker harnessing the power of the sun.

The project will include 360 parking spots and 30 electric vehicle charging stations under a carport. DTE — which signed a contract to construct, operate and maintain the canopy for 20 years — will begin building the structure in September and will complete it in early 2015.

A DTE spokesman declined to say how much the project will cost.

The canopy, which will cover part of the existing lot just north of the headquarters building, will be able to generate 1.038 megawatts of electricity, which Ford said is enough to power 158 average-size homes.

It will be the second-largest solar-powered carport in the Midwest, behind a 1.1-megawatt facility in Ohio.

A kiosk will offer information about solar power and details about the structure.

“This is an innovative project that will benefit both DTE Energy and Ford, and is yet another example of our work toward building a more sustainable future,” Donna Inch, chairman and CEO, Ford Motor Land Development Corp., said in a statement.

The structure is part of DTE’s efforts to generate 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015.

A Ford spokesman said this is the only new site it’s considering for solar panels in southeast Michigan, but said the company is “evaluating several opportunities around the world.”

Ford’s use of solar power isn’t unique.

General Motors Co. generates more than 38 megawatts of solar power at 13 facilities across the globe, the largest in the U.S. being a 1.8 megawatt-array on the roof of its Toledo Transmission facility in Ohio.

The new project is not Ford’s only foray into solar power.

Four years ago, Ford and DTE Energy partnered to build a solar photovoltaic panel system at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. The energy generated there helps power vehicle production at the plant, where Ford builds the Focus, Focus Electric, C-MAX Hybird and C-MAX Energi.

The automaker’s other green efforts include installing a “living roof” at its World Headquarters and at the Dearborn Truck Plant. Vegetation planted on the roofs acts as insulation and helps control storm water.

Ford’s also made a commitment to using less water. Between 2011 and 2012, the automaker reduced the amount of water used to make each vehicle by 8.5 percent, and by 2015 wants to reduce its water usage per vehicle by 30 percent.

At Ford’s assembly plant in Chennai, India, the automaker recently installed a system that allows the facility to recycle 100 percent of its water. And in South Africa, it installed a new wastewater treatment plant that increased the amount of water it can reuse there by 14 percent.

Around the globe, Ford’s reduced its water usage from 64 billion gallons a year to 24 billion gallons.

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