Ford research center deploying utility-designed, low emission energy infrastructure - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Demand Management, Distributed Energy Resources, Energy Efficiency, Industrial, Utilities, Solar  -  October 31, 2017

Ford to deploy 'energy infrastructure of the future'

Artist rendering of Ford's plans for its new product campus provided by Ford. 

Ford Motor Co. is expecting to see drastic cuts in energy use at its research and engineering center in Dearborn, Mich., through the implementation of a series of efficient generation and management systems created by its utility, DTE Energy. 

The utility refers to its work as creating "an 'ultra-low' emission energy infrastructure of the future"  that will power the Ford Research and Engineering Center. As part of the broader transformation underway at the company's global headquarters, Ford has said the legacy Ford Research and Engineering Center Campus – dedicated by U.S. President Eisenhower in May 1953 – will be redesigned into a contemporary, innovative work environment to accommodate 24,000 employees in 4.5 million square feet of upgraded work space.

DTE said Oct. 24 that it will build, own and operate a host of advanced sustainability systems including natural air flow ventilation; geothermal heating and cooling; and solar in a state-of-the-art energy infrastructure serving the center. The utility's infrastructure scope includes constructing, owning and operating a highly efficient, gas-fired combined heat and power plant, chilled and hot water systems, distribution systems, thermal energy storage and a geothermal system designed to increase the efficiency of the chilled and hot water facilities, according to a news release

All new research and engineering center buildings are expected to achieve LEED Gold certification and reduced energy usage of approximately 50% when compared with the existing campus office space. Specifics on the technologies being deployed include: 

  • Gas-fired electric turbines will generate sufficient waste heat that, when captured and converted to steam, will use 10 times less natural gas than the use of a traditional boiler plant.
  • Advanced chiller technology will result in a 35% reduction in energy use versus traditional chillers.
  • New refrigerants will eliminate the use of older refrigerants years earlier than would otherwise be possible.
  • Renewable energy from an on-site solar array could supply up to 4 MW of electricity.
  • A thermal energy storage tank will reduce peak electric system requirements. 

"Ford and DTE have a long history of working together, and the REC development offered another opportunity for our companies to collaborate on a major sustainability project," Dave Ruud, president of DTE's Power and Industrial Group said in a statement. "This partnership will deliver the reliable and efficient energy Ford needs for many years to come."

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