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WM Landfill Gas Powers GM Plant for New Fuel-Sipping Cars

Provides 40 percent of energy to build Chevrolet Sonic, Buick Verano

When production of the fuel-efficient 2012 Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano begin this fall, 40 percent of the energy to power the General Motors Orion Assembly Plant where they are built will come from burning landfill gas created nearby, including WM’s Eagle Valley landfill.

The use of the landfill gas, which saves GM $1.1 million a year in energy costs, also cuts the amount of greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides released in the air. During most of the year, the system runs exclusively on landfill gas instead of coal primarily to generate steam for heating and compressed air.

Rob Threlkeld of GM, Manager for  Green Initiatives, told Greenopolis that “this renewable energy savings  program used funds  that would have been spent on energy for efficiency upgrades instead. We used money from the current budget to put in efficiencies that save future dollars as well.”

Threlkeld said this was part of a strong corporate focus and part of the  reinventions of GM. He went on, “We don’t just implement projects either, we share the knowledge with others so they can follow suit. GM is one of largest users of solar energy for automotive operations as well.”

Use of landfill gas is just one of the sustainable methods that lessen the plant’s environmental impact. Others include:

  • Lighting system upgrades that saved more than 5,944 megawatts of electricity per year and $430,000 while also cutting CO2 by 3,676 metric tons. Plant workers track energy use on an hourly basis with sophisticated software, enabling them to see real-time usage by department to improve their equipment shut-down activities.
  • Plant workers reduced total waste by 26 percent from 2005 to 2009.
  • An upgraded paint shop is heated by natural and landfill gas, and uses half of the energy per vehicle of the one it replaced. Both the Sonic and Verano use a new eco paint that eliminates the need for a primer oven and increases quality and appearance due to waterborne base coats.

“Environmentally friendly choices often translate to higher efficiency and quality,” said Maureen Midgley, GM executive director of Global Manufacturing Engineering. “Take our new paint shop – it was designed for optimal efficiency and delivers premium paint appearance for our vehicles.

“With these improvements, we’ll reduce greenhouse gas production by about 80,000 metric tons at a full three-shift capacity,” Midgley said. “This is equivalent to the emissions from 14,000 vehicles per year, and the electricity reduction equals at the output from 3,500 homes.”

Some of the diverted material is directed to the cars being made. Recycled cardboard packaging from Orion and other GM plants and used denim are part of the Verano’s sound insulation. In 2010, GM’s worldwide facilities combined recycled 92% of the waste they generated. The Orion plant recycled 21,893,788 pounds of materials from its operations between 2005 and 2010.

The 2012 turbocharged Chevrolet Sonic is a small car available in five-door and sedan models. The 2012 Buick Verano compact sedan includes 10 standard air bags, an available heated steering wheel and a next-generation radio system with OnStar-powered connectivity.

Production of both vehicles will begin at Orion later this fall. They will be on sale by the end of the year.

About godsdoghowls

I'm Senior Manager for Community Engagement and Development at Greenopolis.com; a hunter and naturalist, rabbinic student and maple sugar maker, husband of Sara and father of 5 terrific children.

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