Volkswagen opened a solar park on 33 acres adjacent to its LEED Platinum manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The 9.5 MW solar park contains 33,600 solar modules from JA Solar designed to produce 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity per year. The electricity produced from the solar park is expected to meet 12.5 percent of the energy needs of the manufacturing facility during full production and 100 percent during non-production periods. The plant will not sell any of its electricity back to the grid, but rather, VW will consume 100 percent of the electricity generated from the polycrystalline solar modules mounted on a Unirac racking system. Ten SMA inverters will convert the solar energy from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) to be used to power the electrical installations in the manufacturing plant.
Silicon Ranch will own the solar park and sell the electricity to Volkswagen under a 20-year power purchase agreement. Phoenix Solar provided engineering, procurement and construction services in building the solar park over the last six months.
The plant, which manufactures Volkswagen Passat sedans, covers 1.9 million square feet and employs more than 3,000 people. When the plant was awarded LEED Platinum certification in late 2011, the US Green Building Council noted it was the first automotive manufacturing plant in the world to receive the top LEED certification, and that distinction remains today.
For Volkswagen, the solar park in Chattanooga will rank as the automaker’s largest photovoltaic installation worldwide.
The car maker has an overarching sustainability program known as Think Blue Factory. Recently, more than 350 energy experts from among 21 Volkswagen plants attended a Think Blue Factory annual meeting held in Wolfsburg, Germany, where the company honored the best solutions in reduction of energy consumption at its production plants.