LORDSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – More than 16 million vehicles have been put together at General Motors Lordstown Complex since 1966. For the last year and half, it has also been producing something outside of the plant that is making a big impact.
GM’s largest power generator in the western hemisphere sits on six and a half acres outside the Lordstown assembly plant. The solar panels were turned on January 1, 2015.
Site Utilities Manager Chuck Simpson said the panels are working out well — picking up 30 percent more power than was anticipated from the first calculations. He said cost savings work out to be 1.5 percent of the total annual bill it covers.
“They’re fulfilling the purpose we intended them to do — a lot of visibility from the public, and we get the energy savings on our workload,” Simpson said.
It took two months to put up the 8,550 panels, which were installed during the winter of 2014.
The solar panels produce more than two megawatts of power per year, but the plant uses 21 megawatts every hour. Every little bit helps, though, since GM Lordstown is the power company’s largest customer.
“Last year, in 2015, we saved $203,000. This year, we saved $147,000 and we project it will be $298,000 by the end of the year,” Simpson said.
The solar panels cost $4.6 million. It would take 23 years for the investment to pay off with average savings of $200,000 per year.
Right now, the pace is ahead of schedule.
“We use everything here, because we have so much power coming in from Ohio Edison. This just reduces the amount they send to us, but we can never overwhelm their load,” Simpson said.
It would seem natural to expand the panels. That has been discussed, but nothing is in the works right now.
GM has also “gone green” inside the plant, with thousands of light bulbs being changed to LED lights. The new energy-efficient bulbs generated an additional savings of over $2 million per year.