Ford, DTE ink major renewable energy deal to power automaker's Michigan plants

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. and DTE Energy on Wednesday announced what they're billing as the largest-ever renewable energy purchase from a utility in the U.S.

Under a purchase agreement between the two Michigan companies, DTE is slated to add 650 megawatts of new solar energy in the state to power Ford's facilities — enough to power 140,000 homes, according to Ford. The addition will increase the total amount of installed solar in Michigan by nearly 70% — and means that all of the electricity Ford uses to produce vehicles in Michigan will be produced with renewable energy, the automaker said.

Bob Holycross is Ford Motor Co.'s vice president, sustainability, environment and safety engineering.

“This is a big deal for us," Bob Holycross, Ford's vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering, told The Detroit News. "Southeast Michigan is our home, and to be able to do this locally with DTE in the state of Michigan is entirely consistent with our longer-term aspirations and to not just benefit the environment, but when you think about the community and the job creation for constructing operations like solar and wind.”

The automaker previously announced a goal to power all of its global facilities with renewable energy by 2035. It's aiming to be entirely carbon neutral by 2050, with interim goals along the way. Holycross said the deal marks a "big step" in helping Ford hit its company-wide goals around eliminating carbon emissions.

The state of Michigan also is targeting carbon neutrality by 2050, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer applauded the agreement.

“I want to congratulate DTE Energy and Ford Motor Company for taking this significant step to increase our state’s solar energy production and to position Michigan as a leader in climate action,” she said in a statement. "Steps like this collaboration between Ford and DTE are helping to move our entire state forward, building on our automotive legacy while protecting clean air and water for future generations.”  

Ford is purchasing the solar energy through DTE's MIGreenPower program, and estimated the deal would cut out as much as 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

"Ford was the first large industrial customer to enroll in our MIGreenPower program in 2019 and we want to thank the automaker for its continued commitment to using MIGreenPower to help decarbonize its operations and meet its sustainability goals," Jerry Norcia, chairman and CEO of DTE Energy, said in a statement.

Ford already has made its manufacturing operations carbon-free in other states, and Holycross said the automaker is most of the way to meeting its 2035 goal. 

"By far, this is one of the most significant pieces of that," he said of the agreement with DTE.

Under the deal, DTE will build solar arrays that Holycross said would require about 6,000 acres.

Ford, DTE and government officials are slated to discuss the agreement Wednesday at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, which produces the Bronco SUV and Ranger pickup truck, and already uses some solar energy to power its operations.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski