VW Builds Industry’s Largest Solar Panel Installation

The Volkswagen Group, though its Spaniard Seat division, now has the biggest solar panel installation in the automotive industry.

The solar panel array is located at SEAT’s Martorell factory.

Known as the Seat al Sol (Seat Sun) project, the third and final phase of which was completed this month, the array comprises of 53,000 solar panels covering a 270,000 square meter (2,906,244 square foot) area.

VW explained that it generates 15,000,000 kilowatt-hours per year, which is a quarter of the energy required annually to produce the new Seat Leon. This solar array is said to reduce Martorell’s environmental impact significantly, saving 7,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year in the production process.

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The Project Seat al Sol was developed in partnership with photovoltaic panel developer Gestamp Solar and was done so, says VW, without interrupting car manufacturing at the Martorell facility.

In fact, the installation of the solar panels has provided an additional benefit – some also serve as overhead protection for completed cars against adverse weather conditions.

Since its inception in mid-2010, Seat said it has invested €35m ($47.65 million) in Seat al Sol and made it the company’s flagship environmental commitment. It complements other emissions reduction initiatives, including Martorell’s two train lines, one of which transports vehicles directly to the Port of Barcelona (the Autometro), and the other components from the premises of the Zona Franca of Barcelona (the Cargometro).

Seat said these two 40 kilometer (24.85 mile) lines reduce truck use by 50,000 trips per year, with an estimated emissions reduction of 2,000 tons of CO2.

Moreover, Seat explained Martorell’s cogeneration plant generates 50 percent of the power and 90 percent of the thermal energy that it consumes, saving up to 12,800 tons of CO2 per year. In addition, thanks to an agreement between Seat and renewable energy supplier ACCIONA, all of the power comes from renewable sources.

VW said with these initiatives, the Spanish brand will contribute to the environmental commitment of the Volkswagen Group, which aims to increase the level of sustainability of its factories by 25 percent by 2018.