Volkswagen has 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 here, 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. Today, 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 13.1GWh 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.