Energy optimization efforts - Smart Energy Decisions

Demand Management, Energy Efficiency, Industrial  -  August 23, 2017

Energy innovation earns Chevy plant top EPA award

General Motors Co. has had a sharp focus on energy management for years, but just recently earned a new performance honor from the U.S. EPA. 

The automaker's Fairfax Assembly plant, which is home to the Chevrolet Malibu, has become the only manufacturing plant in Kansas to earn Energy Star certification — accomplished by meeting strict energy performance levels — in the past nine years. In an Aug. 23 blog post, GM outlines a series of innovative energy efficiency practices that have been implemented at the facility, including establishing energy teams; implementing a more efficiency paint process; deploying an in-house energy management system and installing LED lighting. 

The new paint process at the plant is a significant contributor to its efficiency: The process uses 40% less energy per vehicle compared to traditional paint shop processes, which GM said saves $4 million a year. The water-based, "three-wet" paint operation eliminates the need to use a primer bake oven between primer and color-coating layers. GM also recirculates air in paint spray booths, requiring less frequent outdoor air intake and temperature adjustments. Mari Kay Scott, GM's executive director of global environmental compliance and sustainability, discussed the process in more detail in an interview with Smart Energy Decisions last year. 

Through established energy teams, employees at the Kansas plant champion simple energy-saving initiatives such as shutting down equipment and turning off lights during nonproduction times, the company said. They also share this knowledge and resources across all departments to help the facility meet non-production energy targets.

Also contributing to the plant's energy performance level are more than 3,500 new LED lights in the facility's administrative and engineering mezzanine, which GM said saves $56,000 in energy costs every year. Additionally, GM's energy management system, Energy OnStar, enables employees to monitor and optimize heating and cooling temperatures in real time.

"Adjusting temperatures by even one degree can immediately realize 3% to 4% in energy savings," GM said in its green blog.

While this is GM Fairfax's first Energy Star certification, it met the program's "Challenge for Industry" in 2010 by reducing energy intensity 16% in just three years. GM has a broader goal to reduce energy use per vehicle produced by 20% by 2020. Between 2010 and 2016, the company reduced energy by 16%. 

"Achieving Energy Star certification at an assembly plant takes the time and dedication of an entire team," GM Global Energy Manager Al Hildreth said in the post. "Our Fairfax employees are helping GM build cars more efficiently and reducing our environmental impact in Kansas."

Earlier this year, GM earned Energy Star's "Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence" award for continued corporatewide leadership in protecting the environment through energy efficiency.

"Improving the energy efficiency of our nation’s industrial facilities is critical to protecting our environment," said Jean Lupinacci, chief of Energy Star's commercial and industrial branch. "From the plant floor to the boardroom, organizations are leading the way by making their facilities more efficient."

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