GM Maryland tranny plant gets solar power system.

Author:Alpern, Peter
Position:News & analysis

General Motors announced plans recently to install more than 8,700 solar panels this spring on the roof of its White Marsh, MD, transmission plant through a partnership with SunEdison, a local solar power firm.

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The 300,000-square-foot solar project will be one of the biggest on the East Coast, generating enough electricity to power up to 150 households and reducing the plant's utility bill.

The installation will be capable of generating about 1.4 million kilowatt-hours of energy annually, enough to displace about 20 percent of the plant's power currently bought from the local utility.

The proposal is part of an effort to lessen the automaker's impact on the environment and cut costs amid hemorrhaging U.S. sales.

In recent months, GM has said it would slash $15 billion in spending through 2009 by laying off workers, cutting certain retiree health benefits, and for the first time in 86 years, suspending its dividend.

SunEdison LLC, which is negotiating a state incentive package, will bear the entire cost of the project and, during a 20-year contract period, sell the power it generates to GM.

"Maryland is quickly becoming a national leader in sustainable energy alternatives," said Gov. Martin O'Malley. "This is a state that's good for this sort of business."

The Maryland installation marks the fourth major deployment of solar systems on GM facilities. The company is well on its way toward the largest solar power installation in the world with its Zaragoza, Spain, factory, with some 85,000 panels covering nearly 2 million sqft of rooftop. Smaller systems are already...

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