When Ford installed a solar array outside Michigan Assembly Plant in 2011, the 500-kilowatt solar power generation system was considered groundbreaking. The amount of renewable solar energy Ford will soon be receiving for its entire Michigan footprint through a partnership with DTE Energy is roughly 1,300 times that amount, Ford leaders and public officials announced this week as nearly one hundred UAW-Ford employees looked on.
DTE Energy, which provides electric service to more than 2 million customers in Southeast Michigan, will deliver 650 megawatts of solar energy capacity through new solar projects to be built and operated by DTE throughout the region. By 2025, every Ford vehicle manufactured in Michigan, which includes the Ford Bronco and F-150 Lightning, will be assembled with the equivalent of 100% carbon-free electricity – 10 years earlier than Ford’s global goal.
“A goal isn’t really anything unless there’s a plan,” said Ford President and CEO Jim Farley. “Today is an example of what it looks like to get off our butts, do something about it and take action.”
All Ford offices and manufacturing facilities in Michigan, including the Michigan Central campus in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, will be powered by the equivalent of 100% clean energy, including a mix of solar, wind, hydro and nuclear power. Ford is purchasing the carbon-free electricity through DTE’s MIGreenPower program, in which Ford became the first large industrial member in 2019, when Michigan Assembly Plant was one of three Ford facilities enrolled in the program.
“Ford was a pioneer in helping move Michigan toward decarbonizing,” said Jerry Norcia, chairman and CEO, DTE Energy, adding that everyone in the state will benefit from breathing cleaner air thanks to Ford’s partnership.
The move is a significant step toward Ford’s goal to reach carbon neutrality. It is also the largest-ever purchase of renewable energy from a utility in the U.S. Using carbon-free electricity is expected to save as much as 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year that would otherwise have been created to produce the electricity. Sean Solak, who works on the lift gate team at Michigan Assembly, said, “it’s a great move in the right direction,” adding, “Clean energy and all the opportunities that it brings, it’s great for our state, the country and the world.”
DTE will build at least three new solar projects requiring as much as 7,000 acres of land throughout the state to support the project, according to Brian Calka, the company’s vice president of renewable energy sales and project development. “This is not a flash in the pan or a one-year deal,” he said, noting Ford’s enrollment in the program will last for decades. The addition will also expand the total amount of installed solar energy in Michigan by nearly 70%.
Andrew Hobbs, global director of Ford’s Environmental Quality Office, said many other large companies pledged similar timelines for achieving carbon-free energy usage after Ford committed to its 2035 deadline. Other companies “have tried to supersede us, but they haven’t been able to deliver,” he said. The year was chosen after a thorough analysis that included looking at worldwide challenges. “There was no magic to it – this was pure leadership by the whole team,” Hobbs said.
Farley also praised Executive Chair Bill Ford for pushing the company’s sustainability initiatives that span more than two decades, including Ford’s first corporate sustainability report 23 years ago. “His vision for how an industrial company can take its environmental impact seriously and lead the way is something we’re all just waking up to now,” Farley said.
Farley roamed the crowd and spoke to employees before a press conference to announce the news. Many employees in attendance, including plant manager Keisha Hanks, welcomed the decision, calling it “the right thing to do for the environment and it’s the right thing for us as a manufacturer.”
Tania Shaheen, packaging engineer and launch lead was proud of Ford’s commitment to renewable energy. “Ford has a great future, and it’s nice to see they’re thinking ahead of the game and that a greener future is better,” she said.
Upfitter Sam Reams added that the commitment bodes well for the company’s future which helps solidify a strong future for employees at the plant. “It’s wonderful that Ford is taking this opportunity to expand its green reach,” he said.