VW’s Solar Installation Largest Of Its Kind Among U.S. Auto Factories

Yesterday Volkswagen announced it is putting into operation at its Chattanooga, Tenn., manufacturing facility a massive solar installation.

VW said in a release that the installation is the largest of its kind among auto manufacturing facilities in the U.S., and the largest of any solar installation in Tennessee.

The Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park occupies 33 acres, or half of the 66-acre land parcel adjacent to VW’s 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.

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VW says that the electricity produced from the solar park is expected to meet 12.5 percent of the energy needs of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga manufacturing plant during full production, and 100 percent during non-production periods. The plant covers 1.9 million square feet and employs more than 3,000 people who manufacture the Passat sedan at the plant.

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,” said Fischer.

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VW notes that it hasn’t installed the solar modules in order to sell power back to utilities companies. Instead, VW says it 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.

In late 2011 the U.S Green Building 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. Today, the Chattanooga plant remains the only auto plant worldwide to earn the LEED Platinum certification.