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Ford microgrid to combine solar with EV charging

Talk about green cars. Smart-grid project from Ford and Detroit Edison will combine on-site solar power with electric vehicle charge stations and battery energy storage.

What was once a Ford SUV factory will become a solar-powered facility turning out fuel-efficient cars.

Ford Motor on Thursday announced a plan with utility Detroit Edison to install a 500-kilowatt solar array and battery energy storage from Xtreme Power at Ford's Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan.

A Ford factory microgrid will combine on-site solar generation with a battery which will be used to charge electric vehicles.
A Ford factory microgrid will combine on-site solar generation with a battery which will be used to charge electric vehicles. Click to enlarge. Ford

The set-up is meant to make Ford's operations cleaner and serve as a smart-grid test case. Installation for the system, which will cost $5.8 million, is scheduled to start later this year, the companies involved said.

The electricity generated by the solar panels will feed into the grid to offset a portion of the power used at the plant. The panels will also charge the 750-kilowatt energy storage system, which is able to store two megawatt-hours of energy. The Ford panels will be much larger than a household rooftop solar array, which can have a capacity of anywhere from two to 10 kilowatts. The average U.S. home uses about 11 megawatt-hours per year.

By using solar power and charging the batteries at off-peak times for later use, Ford expects it will save $160,000 a year in energy costs.

The system will include 10 electric vehicle charging stations, which will charge electric trucks that transport parts between facilities. The charging stations will also be used to test charging of Ford plug-in passenger cars coming in the next two years: its 2011 battery-electric Ford Focus and a plug-in hybrid due in 2012, which will be built at the plant.

In addition to batteries, Xtreme power will supply a power-management system for the storage and charging stations. Ford envisions that the facility can later test usingvehicle batteries for grid storage once the batteries are beyond their useful life for cars.

The project is partially paid by Detroit Edision's solar program, in which either customer or utility-owned solar arrays are installed and connected to the grid. Adding on-site storage will allow Ford and the utility to see whether a microgrid can save Ford money managing its energy use to take advantage of off-peak rates.