Volkswagen USA Unveils Its Largest Solar Farm

The Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park will help power the company’s production of the Passat.

The 9.5 megawatt facility is the largest solar farm operated by an automaker in the USA according to the company. The 33,600 solar panels will generate around 13,100 megawatt-hours of clean electricity per year; enough to meet 12.5 percent of the plant’s electricity needs during full-capacity operation and 100 percent of demand when the plant is not in production.

Part of Volkswagen’s “Think Blue” initiative, the company says the park is an important element of its global strategy for generating increasing electricity from renewable sources.

In its 2011 Sustainability Report, Volkswagen committed to spending around AUD$770 million in the expansion of renewable energy from solar, wind and hydro power. The company has its sights set on a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from energy supplies by 2020 compared to 2010.

Volkswagen was the first automaker in the world to receive the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification; which was awarded to the Chattanooga plant.

Even the luminous 3.5 metre high VW badge sign at the plant is greener than most similar signage. Instead of being illuminated by conventional fluorescent tubes that would require 2,000 watts, Volkswagen uses a large set of LEDs that needs only 150 watts.

Volkswagen says it has invested about $1 billion in the facility overall and created more than 5000 jobs in the region so far.

In other news from Volkswagen Group, the company has announced VW subsidiary MAN and Audi’s progress on producing synthetic methane (Audi e-gas) from water and carbon dioxide; with the process powered by renewable electricity sources.

The synthetic methane will start being fed into the public natural-gas network starting the middle of this year. A key component of the plant to be used in producing the gas is a MAN Diesel & Turbo methanation reactor.  Construction and production of the 16 metre high e-gas plant unit occurred at MAN’s Deggendorf site and a heavy-duty transport took the ready-for-use tower to Werlte in December last year.