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Sunny side up for VW plant

Powering on: This 13-hectare solar array will cut VW’s carbon footprint at its Tennessee Passat factory.

Volkswagen opens America’s biggest car plant solar power system to build Passats

28 Jan 2013

VOLKSWAGEN has opened a 13-hectare solar energy array at its factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it plans to turn sunshine into Passats.

The solar park is VW’s biggest and the largest at a car plant in North America, generating up to 9.5 megawatts of electricity on a sunny day, with the prospect of supplying 12.5 per cent of the factory’s needs when the factory is running at full capacity.

However, it is not the world’s biggest automotive solar installation – General Motors’ Zaragoza plant in Spain has a rooftop solar array capable of generating 12mW.

Renault-Nissan also has been rolling out a solar generation program, with Renault aiming for 60mW across its collective factories.

In Tennessee, the so-called solar park has 33,600 photovoltaic modules mounted on the ground and is a collaboration with Phoenix Solar – a German company that built the system – and Silicon Ranch, an American alternative energy supplier which will operate it.

All of the electricity – about 13,100 megawatt-hours a year – will be used to help run the plant.

When the factory is not running on weekends or public holidays, the solar energy will be sufficient to supply all its power needs.

The solar scheme is part of Volkswagen’s global Think Blue. Factory program that aims to slice the environmental impact of its factories by 25 per cent by 2018.

The $1 billion Chattanooga plant began production in April 2011 and employs about 3000 people.

It was already regarded as one of the greenest VW plants, having been designed to minimise waste and maximise energy efficiency.

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