Sept. 23--The deal that General Motors struck this week to buy power from a pair of wind farms -- including one in northwest Ohio -- will push the company's Toledo Transmission plant to a 100 percent green future.
GM had already made strides toward converting to renewable energy at its Toledo plant, including installing a 1.8-megawatt solar array on the roof of the Alexis Road plant in 2012. That, officials have said, provides about 5 percent of its energy needs. The plant also uses methane gas from a nearby landfill for another 19 percent of its energy needs.
"Now we're looking into the market on off-site ways of procuring that same renewable energy at a much larger scale," Rob Threlkeld, the company's global manager of renewable energy, said in an interview.
General Motors announced on Tuesday that it had agreed to buy 200 megawatts of power from the Northwest Ohio Wind project in Paulding and Van Wert counties in Ohio and the HillTopper Wind Project in central Illinois. Both are sites expected to begin generating electricity by the end of next year.
Officials said that 200 megawatts will provide enough power for all seven plants the company has in Ohio and Indiana, including its operations in Toledo and Defiance. It also will boost the share of electricity GM gets from renewable sources to 20 percent globally.
The automaker has set a goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
The electricity from the wind farms in Ohio and Illinois won't flow directly to GM's plants. Instead, the company has signed what's known as a virtual power purchase agreement.
Essentially what that means is that GM has agreed to pay a fixed rate to those developers for a set period of time. The power they generate goes onto the grid, while GM continues to buy electricity from the local utility. If the wholesale price for electricity is higher than what GM is paying, it will receive a check refunding the difference at the end of the month. If the wholesale price is lower than GM's contracted price, it will pay the developer the difference.
"We're really matching generation needs with our load needs within that region," Mr. Threlkeld said.
GM did not detail the specifics of the agreement, including the rate it is paying or the length of the purchase agreement. However, Mr. Threlkeld said rates are in line with current market rates.
Virtual power purchase agreements are seen both as a way for companies to hedge against higher future energy prices, and as a way to get more green energy generation up and running. That was the case here, Mr. Threlkeld said.
GM's Toledo Transmission plant in 2015 was presented with a gold level award from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for its work making the plant more environmentally friendly.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at [email protected], 419-724-6134, or on Twitter @TyrelLinkhorn.
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