You hardly need us to tell you that there’s been an ongoing race to become the king of plug-in vehicles between Nissan and General Motors ever since the two firms launched their 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevrolet Volt. 

But with both cars battling it out on the forecourt both firms can worry about other things, such as improving the carbon footprint of their corporate offices and factories. 

So it comes as no surprise that GM has announced that it plans to install the largest solar panel array southeast Michigan has ever seen at its Detroit-Hamtramck facility, where the 2011 Volt is produced.

Back in February Nissan North America announced that it was installing a 300 square foot photovoltaic solar panel array at its Tennessee headquarters.  Although the facility won’t be publicly available for a while, Nissan had planned to connect the solar panels to the local electricity grid, helping to provide power to the local communities and to its own offices. 

At the time, we pointed out that Nissan’s electric car rival GM already had a 2 million square foot solar panel array at its Zaragoza Plant in Spain capable of providing up to 12 megawatts of power at full output to power the plant.  

First 2011 Chevrolet Volt built on production tooling at Detroit Hamtramck plant, March 31, 2010

First 2011 Chevrolet Volt built on production tooling at Detroit Hamtramck plant, March 31, 2010

Of course, good ideas spread. Which is why GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant is getting its own monster photovoltaic solar panel array.  

But Bob Ferguson, GM’s vice president of Public Policy is keen to point out that the solar panels are not just the latest in some locker-room display of masculinity. 

"This isn't only about going green for green's sake,” Ferguson reassured Christina Rogers of The Detroit News This is a showcase plant. This is where the future of GM will, in some ways, reside."

The 264,000 square foot installation will provide up to half a megawatt of power and slash an estimated $15,000 off the Detroit-Hamtramck energy annual energy bills. 

Solar Panels On Auriga Leader

Solar Panels On Auriga Leader

Interestingly, the $3 million installation cost for the panels is not being met by GM. Instead, local energy company DTE Energy is footing the entire bill as part of its SolarCurrents program. Under the scheme, property owners agree to lease their roof space to DTE Energy in exchange for money back on their utility bills.

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt may have got some bad press from ultra-leftwing electric car fans for including an onboard range-extending gasoline engine, but at least we now know that soon those range-extended electric cars will benefit from being built on starlight, one of the cleanest forms of energy so far. 

That has to be worth a fair bit of green kudos, right? 

[The Detroit News (Subscription Required)]