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
- photo by Volkswagen

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