A new solar farm is being built around the 500,000-square-foot plant, managed by Dale Wolf. It produces over 900 superconducting magnets a year – a key component used in MRI machines the world over.
“It’s good for everyone involved,” said Wolf. “It’s something the community can point to as an example of our progressive attitude and good for the company both environmentally and financially.”
More energy falls on the US in sunlight every day than it uses in a whole year. So for the healthcare industry, which produces up to eight percent of US annual greenhouse gas emissions, making the most of that energy can go a long way to making the industry greener.
The solar farm will be made up of 5,184 panels that will produce around 2.5 million kWh annually – more than enough to power the factory at peak demand. During Florence’s hot summers and cold winters, power demand surges. Thanks to the solar farm, the grid will be freed up at these crucial moments to help local families cool or heat their homes, rather than powering the manufacturing plant.
The whole project was made possible by the GE Store – the collaborative network of GE businesses that use each other’s skills and technologies to improve outcomes.
“This is the power of the GE store,” added Wolf. “This is a project financed by GE Energy Financial Services and planned and executed by GE Current: a new GE business aimed at taking energy efficiency experimentation into the real world by combining numerous GE technologies, such as LED lighting, solar and energy storage to benefit other areas of the company, like healthcare. Not many companies can do that.”
The panels are sourced by GE, and the entire project is planned and run by GE Current. The factory is also sourcing GE technologies (transformers and breakers to name a few) and marrying them with the panels from a third party to make the solar farm a reality. What’s more, advanced Industrial Internet software will be used to monitor the plant remotely.
Solar plants of this kind are already used to power other facilities like GE’s Greenville, SC plant, which produces gas turbines, but the solar farm in Florence is the first of its kind in the region.
“This is a statement from GE, on the importance of the Florence plant to the company and to the community,” said Wolf.
The move marks a continued shift towards renewable energy sources for more sustainable manufacturing, after new ambitious emissions targets have been set at summits such as COP21 in Paris.