Used Chevy Volt Batteries Power GM Data Center

Used Chevrolet Volt batteries are helping keep the lights on at the new General Motors Enterprise Data Center at its Milford Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan. Five Volt batteries work with an adjacent solar array and two wind turbines to help supply power to the data center’s administrative offices. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

The GM data center at the Milford Proving Grounds is now using 5 used Chevy Volt batteries to store electricity from a 74-kilowatt solar array and two 2 kilowatt wind turbines.

“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,” Pablo Valencia, GM’s senior manager of battery life cycle management, said in a release. “This secondary use application extends its life, while delivering waste reduction and economic benefits on an industrial scale.”

According to the press release, the batteries can provide back-up power to the building for four hours in the event of an outage . Any excess electricity is sent back to the grid that supplies the Milford campus.

The electricity from the  ground mounted solar array coupled and the two wind turbines is enough meet all the energy needs for the office building and the adjacent parking lot. Together, these renewable sources generate approximately 100 megawatt-hours of energy annually, roughly equivalent to the electricity used by 12 average households.

The used batteries will help GM engineers understand how they redistribute energy at this scale.  GM is anxious to compete with Tesla in the energy storage business. It is working with partners to validate and test  the battery storage system for other commercial and non-commercial uses. “This system is ideal for commercial use because a business can derive full functionality from an existing battery while reducing upfront costs through this reuse,” Valencia says.

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

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.