Powered by the Sun, Wind and EV Batteries, GM Wins LEED Gold

Powered by the Sun, Wind and EV Batteries, GM Wins LEED Gold

Used Chevrolet Volt batteries and renewables power office at GM Data Center
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Powered by the sun, wind and EV batteries, @GM's new data center in Milford, Mich. earned LEED Gold from @USGBC http://bit.ly/1GgmJta

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The reuse of Chevrolet Volt batteries helped the new General Motors Enterprise Data Center in Milford, Mich., earn LEED-Gold recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council. GM’s data center in Warren, Mich., also earned LEED-Gold status. The two centers are replacing 23 GM data centers worldwide.

Used Chevrolet Volt batteries are helping keep the lights on at the new General Motors Enterprise Data Center at its Milford Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan. Five Volt batteries work with an adjacent solar array and two wind turbines to help supply power to the data center’s administrative offices. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - 6:00pm

CAMPAIGN: GM Energy Efficiency


You’ve heard us talk about how we repurpose scrap Chevrolet Volt battery covers to benefit wildlife. But what about the actual batteries? What happens to the batteries that power Chevy Volt extended-range electric cars when their useful life is done?

Hint: Even then, they still have up to 80 percent storage capacity left. And we want to see it go to good use.

Five of them are helping keep the lights on at a new Enterprise Data Center office at our Milford Proving Ground in Michigan.

This reuse of batteries represents our first real-world commercial application, and demonstrates how we can reduce waste while delivering economic benefits on an industrial scale.

Here’s how it works and why it is significant.

A new 74-kilowatt ground-mount solar array and two 2kW wind turbines feed the administration building’s distribution panel, where the five Volt batteries work in parallel to supply power to the building, delivering net-zero energy use on an annual basis.  This means the renewable energy generated meets or exceeds the facility’s demand. And excess clean energy is fed back to the grid that supplies the Milford campus. 

The Chevrolet Volt secondary use battery storage system helped our Milford IT data center attain LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. USGBC says fewer than 5 percent of data centers in the U.S. achieve LEED certification.  At our Warren Technical Center campus, which is home to 20,000 engineers, technicians and designers (and five peregrine falcons), we opened a similarly LEED certified data center in December 2012.

The Warren and Milford facilities both use in-row cooling to contain heat in a smaller area so less air is moved, reducing electricity consumption. We also leverage Michigan’s cooler climate by pumping water outside to chill it naturally, allowing the servers’ cooling system to power down three-quarters of the year.

The centers also distribute power at higher voltages, eliminating energy-draining transformers that generate heat to convert power to the appropriate voltages. As a result, the new facility at Milford will reduce power loss by 17 percent.

A clean back-up power system for the data center itself uses mechanical fly wheels and a diesel engine to reduce emissions, noise pollution and fuel consumption.