A 30-by-30 foot tracking solar tree looms large in the parking lot of a General Motors' facility near the Warren Tech Center. It's a canopy to shade electric cars like the Chevy Volt and also a solar electric charging station that swivels to catch the sun's rays all day long.
"One of these structures can produce 30,000 kilowatt hours of energy a year. This canopy can charge six plug-in vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt on any given day," said Chevy Volt Line Director Tony Posawatz.
The official ribbon cutting ceremony was held on a cloudy day, but they say the tree can generate juice whether the sun's shining or not.
GM is the first automaker to start using this so called emerging sustainable technology.
"We really try to do all that we can to clean the grid and reduce petroleum dependence by being energy efficient, and I think projects like this solar tree [are] going to help us do just that," said GM Vice President of Global Human Resources Cindy Brinkley.
GM plans to boost its solar power production company-wide to 60 megawatts by 2015. They say that's enough to power 10,000 homes across the U.S. The automaker also has 500 charging stations for plug-in vehicles.
"To those who said an electric vehicle was an impossible dream, I say this solar tree is a giant step toward making that dream come true," said Warren Mayor Jim Fouts.
The tree is expected to help support the growth of electric vehicles.
Automakers will need to sell more of them and more hybrids to meet fuel economy standards down the road.
They say the new technology is one more step in our journey toward cleaner energy use.