Power from the parking lot.

Electricity comes from a plant, to be sure – but, in this case, not from a power plant – but from BMW Brilliance’s Tiexi facility in China, where the BMW Group will soon be producing clean electricity.

A car plant that runs on green power? Not such a rarity these days. But a car plant that generates its own solar power – relying entirely on solar cells installed on its parking-lot canopies – now, that is ground-breaking. BMW Brilliance, a joint venture between BMW and Chinese carmaker Brilliance, has taken an important step towards realising this vision at its Tiexi location in Shenyang, China.

The first phase of construction, which mounted solar panels onto the canopies used to shade staff parking areas, was recently completed. This move alone is expected to generate 7.2 GWh of solar power per year. “Phase 2” has now begun: This will see solar modules installed on the covered parking lots for newly-produced vehicles and should deliver another 10.6 GWh or so of electricity per year. This will result in a total production of 17.8 GWh of solar power – or around eight percent of the plant’s total energy requirements. Plans also call for surplus electricity to be fed into Shenyang’s power grid on weekends and other production-free days.

This is possible partly because the solar initiative is not the plant’s first milestone on the road to sustainability. This location already reduced its energy consumption to an impressively low level several years ago – despite having to deal with temperatures ranging from +40°C in the summer and -35°C in the winter: Air-cooled cooling towers and a groundwater cooling system handle cooling during hot spells, while heat wheels, a district heating system and waste heat from welding guns provide resource-saving heat when outside temperatures drop. All vehicle body components needed for production are also manufactured on site, avoiding additional CO2 emissions from delivery runs. The entire Tiexi site, which also produces the BMW X1, the BMW 3 Series Long-Wheelbase version, the BMW 1 Series, 2 Series and 3 Series Sedan, is internationally recognised as a model for sustainable automobile production.

The entire building utilises intelligent energy management with real-time monitoring, which allows energy consumption to be controlled and adjusted automatically. The new parking canopies fit perfectly with the plant’s focus on sustainability and its aim of using 100-percent sustainable resources over the long term. In the shorter term, the amount of energy used in car production will be reduced by around 45 percent (compared to 2016 levels) by 2020.

BMW Brilliance has been recognised for its commitment with honours including China’s “Green Plant Award”. The award is presented by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for achievements in energy production and emissions savings.

Incidentally, anyone who wants to check out progress in Tiexi for themselves is welcome to do so: The plant is now promoting itself as a unique tourist attraction and already earned China’s AAAA rating as a sight that educates travellers about sustainable development, innovation and regional economic development.