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Toledo plant’s in overdrive for transmission

Factory’s rooftop solar array on target for Nov. completion

GM-employees-work-at-Pow

GM employees work at Powertrain. GM said the plant produced its 2.5 millionth six-speed front-wheel drive transmission last week.

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General Motors Co.’s Toledo Transmission Plant has been in high gear this year, with workers building 500,000 of the company’s rear-wheel drive six-speed transmissions in less than 10 months.

The transmission, which goes into some of the company’s fastest and hardest working vehicles, went into production in January, 2008. Workers built the 2-millionth unit in January. GM said Monday that the plant cranked out its 2.5 millionth unit last week. Including the six-speed front-wheel drive transmission, the plant builds on average 5,000 transmissions a day.

At the same time, the Alexis Road plant is slowly getting closer to production of a new, more fuel-efficient eight-speed transmission. The company has invested about $260 million into the plant to ready it for building the eight-speed units.

A company spokesman said this week the majority of the tooling and equipment for the eight-speed transmission has been installed, though a launch date hasn’t been announced. GM has said it expects the eight-speed to be used in “numerous” vehicles by the end of 2016.

GM is also nearing completion of the final phase of a 1.8-megawatt solar array on the plant’s roof. GM officials said the array will be the largest rooftop solar installation in Ohio.

“We’re looking at November, barring any issues we would have with the utility. They do the final sign-off. Mid-November, we’ll be done,” Rob Threlkeld, GM’s global manager for renewable energy, said Tuesday.

Work on the solar project’s first phase began in early 2012. Once finished, the 21,000 solar panels will be GM’s largest array in the United States and generate one-third of the firm’s total rooftop solar capacity nationwide, the company said.

GM paid nothing for the solar panels, instead entering a long-term contract to buy back the power they produce. Mr. Threlkeld said he anticipates the panels will generate nearly 3 percent of the plant’s overall electrical consumption. That doesn’t sound like much, but the company said that’s the equivalent to the power needs of 200 homes.

By year’s end, GM anticipates having more than 40 megawatts of solar panels in use worldwide. The firm is being recognized today by the Solar Energy Industries Association as a Solar Champion at the Solar Power International 2013 event in Chicago.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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