Volkswagen makes the Passat sunnier with largest solar array at US car plant, Tennessee

From left to right: Dr. Andreas Haenel, Phoenix Solar AG/ Jim Coppinger, Mayor Hamilton County/ Frank Fischer, Volkswagen Chattanooga/Matt Kisber, Silicon Ranch/ Ron Littlefield, Mayor Chattanooga/Wolfram Thomas, Volkswagen AG/ Dr. Murray Cameron, Phoenix Solar Inc.Volkswagen is putting more sun in their cars than just a sunroof allows. Last week the German automaker unveiled the largest solar photovoltaic array in Tennessee and at a U.S.-auto manufacturing plant. At 9.5 megawatts the solar array will provide roughly 12.5 percent of the Chattanooga manufacturing facility’s electric needs. It’s also Volkswagen’s largest PV array in the world.

The “Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park” is larger than those at other U.S. auto-manufacturing facilities. For instance, General Motors’ array in White Marsh, Md. is 1.2 megawatts and Ford has a 500 kilowatt array at a manufacturing plant in Michigan.

Volkswagen’s new array on 33 acres of land by its new manufacturing plant is just part of the company’s ambitious efforts for the facility, where the maker of the “People’s Car” builds about 150,000 new vehicles a year. The whole facility achieved LEED Platinum certification by the U.S Green Building Council in late 2011. The completion of the solar array was one of the achievements that allowed it to qualify as LEED Platinum, the organization’s highest certification. Volkswagen said its facility is the only one in the world to achieve the Platinum certification.

“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 Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations LLC CEO and Chairman Frank Fischer, during the unveiling of the facility. “Powering up the solar park also validates the awarding of the LEED Platinum certificate to Volkswagen Chattanooga, which is still the only car factory in the world that has earned such an honor.”

While the installation will only 12.5 percent of the 1.9 million square foot facility’s electric during full production, it is capable of producing all it’s electric needs during non-production periods. The company is consuming all the power from the system onsite. The system, which uses JA Solar modules and SMA inverters, is owned by Silicon Ranch. Volkswagen is buying the power produced by the array under a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA). Engineering, procurement and construction for the array were furnished by Phoenix Solar Inc.