The solar array at American Hondas Torrance, California campus

The solar array at American Honda's Torrance, California campus

Honda in the US says it has flipped the switch on a new solar energy system at the American Honda Motor Co., Inc. campus in Torrance, Calif., one of the largest solar arrays on a commercial building in Southern California.

At 2.0 megawatts (MW) direct current, it is one of Honda's largest on-site renewable energy installations anywhere in the world.

Honda's new solar array features more than 6,000 panels and is expected to generate approximately 3,000 megawatt hours (MWh) annually. Honda says it will offset roughly 30% of the purchased electricity for the entire American Honda Torrance campus.

Solar energy also will provide 100% of the electric vehicle charging energy in the parking area to the south of the solar rooftop system. A Honda-developed cloud-based energy management system can control electric vehicle charging to match solar generation at the 60 EV charging stations to maximize the amount of solar energy used to charge the vehicles.

The solar array on American Honda's Torrance campus is connected in parallel to three large lithium ion batteries that improve the integration of renewable energy with the electric grid, smoothing out the abrupt changes in power generation that occur, for example, when a cloud covers the sun. The batteries – a 500 kilowatt (kW) / 1,000 kilowatt hour (kWh) and two 100kW / 200kWh batteries – also even out the buildings' power usage and reduce demand charges, resulting in significant utility cost savings, Honda says.

"Installing the solar and battery system on Honda's Torrance campus is a win-win-win solution that will help Honda reach its renewable energy goals, save money and reduce CO2 emissions," said Ryan Harty, manager of Connected and Environmental Business Development and Engineering at American Honda. "Charging electric vehicles with sunshine is also very satisfying for our associates. The transition to renewable energy and electric transportation go hand-in-hand."

Honda is targeting a 50% reduction in its total company CO2 emissions on a global basis by 2050, compared to the year 2000. To help reach this goal and advance the company toward its vision of creating a carbon-free society, Honda is implementing renewable energy projects throughout its operations.

Recently, Honda partnered with the Bosch Building Grid Technology (BGT) group to deploy a low-cost, high efficiency, commercial-scale direct-current (DC) microgrid platform at the American Honda parts distribution centre in Chino, Calif.  The DC microgrid enables the distribution centre to use and store 300kW of DC connected solar power directly without exporting it to the electric grid. The DC microgrid powers LED lighting, ventilation fans, forklift charging, and other loads in the facility. The microgrid uses a 546kWh lithium ion battery to provide reliable power to the loads, resilience during power outages, increased energy efficiency, and optimized renewable energy utilization.

From both an electrical load perspective and by facility square footage the installation is the largest commercial-scale DC microgrid in North America. The Chino facility is also home to an existing 1.0MW solar array, completed in 2016, that provides more than 1,400 MWh of solar energy every year. Combined with the new DC microgrid, Honda expects that 100% of the electricity used by the Chino distribution centre will be generated from on-site solar power, meeting the State of California's 2030 Zero Net Energy Commercial Building goal.