Old Car Batteries Help Power GM Data Center

June 19, 2015 By Linda Hardesty

A 74 kW solar array and two wind turbines are working with old Chevrolet Volt batteries to power an administration building at General Motors’ new Enterprise Data Center in Milford, Michigan. The array, turbines and repurposed batteries will work in parallel to supply power to the building, delivering net-zero energy use on an annual basis.

According to GM, even after the battery has reached the end of its useful life in a Chevrolet Volt, up to 80 percent of its storage capacity remains. This secondary use application extends its life, while delivering waste reduction and economic benefits on an industrial scale.

The batteries also can provide back-up power to the building for four hours in the event of an outage and store it when it’s unneeded. Excess energy is sent back to the grid that supplies the Milford campus.

The 74-kW ground-mount solar array coupled with the two 2 kW wind turbines generate enough power to provide all of the energy needs for the office building and lighting for the adjacent parking lot. Together, these renewable sources generate about 100 MWh of energy annually.

The secondary application is being used as a living lab to understand how the battery redistributes energy at this scale. And the company is working with partners to validate and test systems for other commercial and non-commercial uses.

The reuse of Volt batteries also helped the data center administration building attain LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council.

5 comments on “Old Car Batteries Help Power GM Data Center

  1. As the batteries age, does the energy storage efficiency decline with the energy storage capacity? Also, is there any way to identify which individual batteries fail within the system as it continues to age?

  2. As the energy capacity decreases in the battery with age, at what rate does the storage efficiency decrease as well? Clearly, it must be slow. Also, as the batteries continue to age, is there any way to identify and replace failed batteries within the system?

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