BCBSM Goes “Green:” A Closer Look at Downtown Detroit’s Largest Solar Energy System

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is powering a portion of its Detroit campus with renewable energy that preserves clean air and protects natural resources.

BCBSM is one of the first organizations in Michigan to participate in DTE’s SolarCurrents, one of the largest solar energy programs in the country.

“Use of solar energy supports the Blues Go Green initiative,” said Ray Warner, director, Facilities and Support Services. “Participation in the SolarCurrents program puts us in the forefront of using green energy technology to help power an urban campus setting.”

Decreasing our Carbon Footprint

As a company, BCBSM recognizes the health of its members is impacted by a clean environment. Through its “Blues Go Green” initiative, emerging environmental issues, opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of company activities, products and services are identified wherever possible. The SolarCurrents program is one example.

SolarCurrents compliments two other unique technologies used at the downtown Detroit campus — the green living roof on the Congress Street parking deck and the rain water collection systems used for irrigation located behind BCBSM’s headquarters on Lafayette.

Pursuing Sustainability in Downtown Detroit, Partnering with DTE Energy

DTE has installed the 200-kilowatt solar energy system on the roof of BCBSM’s four-story parking structure located at the corner of Congress and Beaubien.

“The solar energy system is capable of providing enough power for about 40 homes a year, plus 20 percent of the base load energy requirements for the Detroit Tower,” said Chris Meyer, manager, Facilities and Support Services.

One of the major benefits is the contribution made toward preserving a green environment.

“Since last August, the solar energy system has produced more than 91,000 kilowatts of power,” Meyer said. “That’s enough power to avoid producing 65 metric tons of carbon dioxide and protect 24 acres of trees.”

The best view of the 31-000 square-foot solar energy system is from the Detroit People Mover. Each month thousands of people can see the system capturing renewable energy from the sun during their ride.

“It’s the largest solar energy system in downtown Detroit,” Meyer said. “It’s good use of urban space, and adds an attractive look to our campus.”

Investing in Michigan’s Future

What’s more, BCBSM is providing DTE a platform for solar energy research to develop clean energies for commercial use throughout Southeastern Michigan.

A SolarCurrents display located inside BCBSM also allows employees to view real-time energy output and learn how solar technology helps the environment. More information on the project is available on DTE Energy’s website.

Energy-efficient lighting to swath Detroit-area parking facilities in green

An exterior lighting makeover under way at seven Blue Cross parking locations in Southeast Michigan is expected to save the same amount of energy that 1,000 homes use in a year.

Electricians assemble new inductive lighting fixtures ahead of final installation at downtown Detroit parking deck.

Electricians are working to replace exterior lighting at parking facilities in Detroit, Southfield and South Lyon. The effort, part of the company-wide Blues Go Green initiative, is expected to reduce energy consumption by up to 50 percent and deliver $43,800 in electricity savings each year.

“We’re going from a metal halide to an inductive fixture,” said Christian Meyer, engineering manager with Blue Cross’ Facilities and Support Services division. “Inductive is a breed between a fluorescent and a metal halide.”

The lighting being replaced is characterized by high wattage for light output, long relight times and high maintenance costs.

By contrast, the induction lighting boasts an instant relight time, lower maintenance costs and other benefits. “These fixtures maintain their luminescence or their light output over their lifetime a lot longer than the metal halides,” Meyer said.

Federal energy-efficiency tax credits and rebates available from DTE Energy will make up nearly half the project’s cost. When combined with the utility-bill savings, the Blues expect the project to pay for itself in a little more than two years.

“Since the (lighting) prices came down, and with the green initiatives that are coming from our utilities and the federal government, we couldn’t turn down this project,” Meyer said.

The Blues and DTE earlier this week announced a plan to construct a 200-kilowatt rooftop solar array on one of Blue Cross’ downtown Detroit parking structures. The array is expected to produce about one-fifth of the company’s Lafayette campus base power.

The Blues Go Green initiative targets ways the company can be more environmentally friendly and save money. Perhaps the best-known example is the “living roof” on our parking deck in downtown Detroit, which helps to control storm water runoff and also extends the structure’s lifespan, among other benefits.

Work on the lighting replacement project is expected to wrap up in late July.