Volkswagen has “powered up” a 9.5 megawatt (MW) solar system that represents both the largest single solar installation at an automotive manufacturing facility in the United States and in the state of Tennessee—as well as Volkswagen’s largest photovoltaic deployment worldwide.
At a dedication ceremony on January 23, dignitaries flipped a giant light switch to signal the official opening of the Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park, built on 33 acres, or half of the 66-acre land parcel adjacent to VW’s state-of-the-art manufacturing plant.
The solar park comprises 33,600 solar modules from Shanghai-based JA Solar, designed to produce 13.1 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity annually—or the equivalent of the energy consumed annually by 1,200 homes. The electricity produced by the solar installation will not be sold back to utilities. Instead, it is expected to meet 12.5 percent of the energy needs of the Chattanooga plant during full production and 100 percent during non-production periods.
Frank Fischer, CEO and chairman of Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations LLC, said, “We are proud to power up the biggest solar park of any car manufacturer in North America today. The solar park,” he said, “is another proof point of Volkswagen’s worldwide commitment to environmental protection under its ‘Think Blue. Factory’ philosophy—a broadly focused initiative for all Volkswagen plants to achieve more efficient use of energy, materials and water and produce less waste and emissions.”
The plant—which formally began production in April 2011— covers 1.9 million square feet, employs more than 3,000 people, and manufactures Volkswagen Passats. Volkswagen Chattanooga is the first and only car factory worldwide with a LEED Platinum certification. It is also certified according to ISO 14001 for its environmental management system and according to ISO 50001 for its energy management system.
Nashville-based Silicon Ranch, which develops and operates utility scale solar facilities, will own the solar park and sell the electricity to Volkswagen under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Phoenix Solar (News - Alert) Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Munich-based Phoenix Solar AG, provided engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services in building the solar park over the last six months. Matthew Kisber, Silicon Ranch president and CEO, said, "We're proud to partner with VW on this important project. Today's ‘Power Up’ launch not only greatly enhances the energy efficiency of VW's Chattanooga plant and reaffirms its place as a true global environmental leader, but it also symbolizes the beginning of a new era in manufacturing operations throughout the region and worldwide. The scope of this solar park and the breadth of how much of the sun's energy will be harnessed here will most certainly have a powerful and lasting positive impact on both our environment and our economy."Dr. Murray Cameron, CEO of Phoenix Solar AG and president of U.S.-based Phoenix Solar Inc., said, “Phoenix Solar Inc. is extremely proud to have designed and built the largest solar electric photovoltaic (PV) plant in Tennessee for such a prominent global company. This project adds to our extensive list of large-scale solar installations across Europe, the Middle East and North America which are supplying cost-effective and clean electricity to a vast variety of commercial companies and utilities.” He added, “What is particularly unique and exciting about this solar power plant is that Volkswagen has coupled clean electricity with energy efficiency measures in the factory to showcase how industry can make an immediate and positive contribution to protecting the environment.”
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Edited by Brooke Neuman