BMW Adds Solar To US Plant’s Green Portfolio

The BMW assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C., is the German automaker’s sole manufacturing facility in the U.S., and something of a tourist attraction. Visitors to the campus’s Zentrum Museum can get up close and personal with rare, classic BMW models, and learn about BMW’s innovations and approaches to safety and motorsports. The plant is also a pioneer in integrating technologies and practices to lower the environmental impacts of its manufacturing processes.

Most recently, BMW commissioned a 96-kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic (PV) system at the plant, where the X3 “Sports Activity Vehicle” is assembled. The system will power the campus’s 24,000-square-foot  visitor’s center and museum. The $500,000 installation consists of 400 240-watt PV modules, and also provides power to three new electric-vehicle charging stations. The project was installed by Morrisville, N,C.-based Southern Energy Management (SEM), with additional support from SunStore Solar.

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image via BMW

The PV system is not the first renewable energy project commissioned at the facility. Since 2003, half of the assembly plant’s energy demand has been met with compressed methane gas collected from a local landfill. BMW invested $12 million to upgrade the biogas system in 2009, and the project has reduced the facility’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 92,000 tons per year. It also saves about $5 million annually in energy costs.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).