Volkswagen Chattanooga Powers Up Largest Solar Park In Tennessee

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
North View
North View
- photo by Volkswagen

Volkswagen on Wednesday “powered up” the largest single solar installation at an automotive manufacturing facility in the United States and the biggest solar installation in the state of Tennessee. At a dedication ceremony there, dignitaries flipped a giant light switch to signal the official opening of the “Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park”, built on Volkswagen’s compound in Chattanooga.

The solar installation at Volkswagen Chattanooga confirms the awarding of the highly-coveted LEED Platinum certification to VW by the U.S Green Building Council in late 2011. At that time, the Building Council called the Chattanooga manufacturing facility “the world’s greenest auto plant” and noted it was the first automotive manufacturing plant in the world to receive the top LEED certification. On Wednesday, the Chattanooga plant remains the only auto plant worldwide to earn the LEED Platinum certification.

The Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park occupies 33 acres, or half of the 66-acre land parcel adjacent to VW’s state-of-the-art manufacturing plant. The solar park contains 33,600 solar modules from JA Solar designed to produce 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity per year -- equivalent to the energy consumed annually by around 1,200 homes in the area.

The electricity produced from the solar park is expected to meet 12.5% of the energy needs of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga manufacturing plant during full production and 100% during non-production periods. The plant covers 1.9 million square feet and employs more than 3,000 people who manufacture the highly-acclaimed Volkswagen Passat sedan. For Volkswagen, the solar park in Chattanooga will rank as the automaker’s largest photovoltaic installation worldwide.

Unlike some companies that install solar facilities in order to sell electricity back to utilities, VW will consume 100% 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, which develops and operates solar energy solutions tailored to meet its customers’ needs, will own the solar park and sell the electricity to Volkswagen under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Phoenix Solar Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Phoenix Solar AG, provided engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services in building the solar park over the last six months.

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 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.” Mr. Fischer added, “Powering up the solar park also validates the awarding of the LEED Platinum certificate to Volkswagen Chattanooga, which is still the only car factory in the world that has earned such an honor.”

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, chief operating officer 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.” Dr. Cameron 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.”

South View
South View
- Photo2 by Volkswagen

TVA Releases Draft Environmental Assessment For Johnsonville Steam Supply

The Tennessee Valley Authority has released a draft Environmental Assessment on a proposal that would allow the Johnsonville Fossil Plant site to continue to provide steam for cogeneration use after the coal plant closes. The draft study considers the environmental effects of the two alternatives under consideration: A) take no action or B) add a heat recovery steam generator ... (click for more)

Attorney General Reaches Settlement With Middle Tennessee Auto Dealer

Middle Tennessee auto dealer, Wholesale Inc., has agreed to immediately change its advertising practices and pay the State of Tennessee $50,000, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced. A Davidson County Court approved the settlement between Wholesale, Inc., the Tennessee Attorney General's Office, and the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs. The agreement centers ... (click for more)

Erlanger's Good Financial News Continues With $11.4 Million Profit For Past 3 Months; Profit At $25.3 Million After 9 Months

Erlanger Health System's good financial news keeps coming - with the announcement on Monday of a profit of $11.4 million for the past three months. Brit Tabor said the hospital has a profit of $25.3 million for the first nine months of the fiscal year. Kevin Spiegel, hospital president, said more good news is projected for the fourth quarter. Mr. Tabor said, "Our market ... (click for more)

Erlanger To Get $100 Million New Electronic Medical Records System

Erlanger Health System will be getting a new electronic medical records system costing just short of $100 million, Erlanger CEO and President Kevin Spiegel said Monday. He said the old Legacy IT system was the hospital's #1 dissatisfaction source. The hospital board is to be asked to approve the system, which will be paid for over several years, at the May board meeting. ... (click for more)

Shock Should Be At Low Teacher Salaries - And Response (4)

In a recent article, Commissioner Tim Boyd is quoted as being shocked at the "high" salaries of central office personnel. While I agree that their salaries are significantly more than what a classroom teacher could ever hope to make, I believe that his shock and disgust are misplaced.  Those salaries, when compared to private-sector jobs, are hardly out of line. Superintendent ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Why The British Attacked

This was a pretty big week exactly 240 years ago and what happened then is really important now. The British Army, after arriving in increasing numbers seven years before, decided to launch a sneak attack on Concord, Mass., and several other towns in mid-April of 1775. Their purpose was simple: take away every gun you can find. Confiscate every weapon of any kind. It was believed ... (click for more)