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VW's grand opening of its Tennessee solar park  (Source: knoxnews.com)
It will produce 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity per year

Volkswagen officially launched its solar installation in Tennessee yesterday, which is the largest solar park in the state.

The "Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park," which is located next to its manufacturing plant in the city, is 33 acres large and has 33,600 solar modules. The modules, provided by JA Solar, are capable of producing 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity per year -- or 1,200 homes annually in the city.

“We are proud to power up the biggest solar park of any car manufacturer in North America today," said Frank Fischer, CEO and Chairman of Volkswagen Group of America. "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.

"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.”

The new solar installation expects to meet 12.5 percent of the Volkswagen manufacturing plant's energy needs during full production and 100 percent of its energy needs during non-production times.

Volkswagen added that it would consume 100 percent of its energy from the solar installation instead of selling it to utilities.

While Volkswagen's new solar facility is the largest, it is by no means the only solar project launched by an automaker in the U.S. Back in 2011, General Motors (GM) launched a solar charging canopy in Michigan called the Tracking Solar Tree. It moves with the sun and helps to charge GM's EVs.

According to GM, the Tracking Solar Tree is able to increase renewable energy production by about 25 percent due to its movable parts. In addition, the tree will produce up to 30,000-kilowatt hours per year and generate enough solar energy to charge six EVs daily.

Source: Volkswagen



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THIS is whats needed
By talikarni on 1/24/2013 4:02:25 PM , Rating: 1
Rather than the feds trying to ram expensive clean energy down our throats at every turn, private companies like this should be and are the ones taking the initiative.
Solar needs to come down some more in price without federal subsidies so it can become more competitive and useful to the every day person.

You can bet if the price came down to cost a quarter of the realistic $20,000 up front for the panels and all the equipment (for my size house), more people could afford them for their own houses, especially in sunny states like Florida. I have been watching various companies and their prices to see when they come down to a reasonable level to implement one at my house... but so far it is still way too expensive for the average homeowner.




RE: THIS is whats needed
By Solandri on 1/24/2013 4:36:12 PM , Rating: 2
It's impressive in scale, but not in production.

13.1 gigawatt-hours / 1 year = 1.5 megawatts average.

33 acres = 133,546 square meters

1.5 megawatts /133546 m^2 = 11.2 Watts/m^2

Figure they're using commercial 125 Watt/m^2 panels, and that's a 0.09 capacity factor. Capacity factor for solar in that region of the country should be around 0.15. So maybe almost half of that 33 acres is just wasted space? I dunno.
quote:
Rather than the feds trying to ram expensive clean energy down our throats at every turn, private companies like this should be and are the ones taking the initiative.

From the article, it sounds like they did this for LEED certification. LEED certification can get you all sorts of government tax breaks and credits - it depends on where you are. Dunno if that's the case here, but I wouldn't be so quick to assume this was entirely a private endeavor.


RE: THIS is whats needed
By ShieTar on 1/25/2013 4:14:15 AM , Rating: 2
Sure there is empty space, you need to be able to walk between the panels to get maintenance access. Of course the given numbers may also include storage and conversion efficiencies instead of being the pure power output of the panels.

Regarding tax breaks and credits - sure they are an incentive. But VW is already operating other, if smaller, solar stations at other plants, like the 280kW installation in Emden, German. Regenerative power is definitly a consideration at VW, of course it is still traded against cost. They do like to keep making twice the profit of GM with two thirds of the revenue.


RE: THIS is whats needed
By Spuke on 1/24/2013 4:57:48 PM , Rating: 2
If you roll your own you get solar for WAY less than $20k. Buy most of the components needed then find an electrician to install it for you.


RE: THIS is whats needed
By JediJeb on 1/24/2013 5:09:01 PM , Rating: 3
I'm not sure how many plants VW has in the US, but if more than this one it is strange they decide to put the solar installation in TN which has the lowest average electricity rates in the nation. Seems they could have saved more money by using solar at a different location.


RE: THIS is whats needed
By ShieTar on 1/25/2013 4:56:02 AM , Rating: 1
They have two more plants I know of in Alabama and Michigan. Michigan of course is not known as "the sun-shine" state exactly, and is likely to be better suited for wind-power.

Huntsville, Alabama, should see almost exactly the same efficiency of solar power generation, so I would guess they will also get a solar station in the near future. The factory in Puebla, Mexiko also has some solar installations already.


RE: THIS is whats needed
By mellomonk on 1/24/2013 5:34:34 PM , Rating: 1
The panels are already fairly reasonable. The panels have fairly long lives, 20+ years. At which point their output will have dropped off significantly, but they will still be producing. They can generate a hell of a lot of power in that time frame. If sighted and sized correctly, and depending on your electric rates, you should easily break-even. They will drop in time, especially with newer photovoltaic tech coming online, but to think that you need them to cost a quarter of what they do today is unrealistic. It isn't just the cost of the panels you need to think about, it is the cost of the power they will produce.

But realistically it is not even about the bottom line. It is about the quality of the power and when it is produced. Carbon neutral and delivered at the peak-rate utility times. Great for the environment, great for the utility company, great for you. You have to factor in the costs that are more then dollars and cents.

The subsidies paid to consumers are far more transparent then the various incentives that are given to utilities, mining interests and the alike that currently profit from our power needs. It is a fair and proven tactic that is done everyday for business interests and has historical precedent. From rural electrification, the interstate highway system, the OK land rush, to today's tax incentives that are given to move a company or manufacturer to a given community. We are trying to support and encourage a fledgling industry here that brings benefits beyond the bottom line to our society and our nation. The free market doesn't always have these benefits in mind. It will take an investment in the future to steer our massive society down a different path. Nobody is ramming anything down your throat, you don't have to take advantage. But it is a direction that more and more of our society are beginning to take and insist our nation take. Be it to preserve our environment, insure our energy independence, or give our industries a head start to the future, we choose a different path.


RE: THIS is whats needed
By Spuke on 1/24/2013 10:15:04 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
But realistically it is not even about the bottom line.
That's pretty much what it's all about for me. I can't afford unicorns.


RE: THIS is whats needed
By JediJeb on 1/25/2013 5:27:23 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
But realistically it is not even about the bottom line. It is about the quality of the power and when it is produced. Carbon neutral and delivered at the peak-rate utility times. Great for the environment, great for the utility company, great for you. You have to factor in the costs that are more then dollars and cents.


Here in Ky you can only bet on sunny weather during late July into mid August, the rest of the year you can get clouded over for a week at a time. Winter is especially bad, so I don't think I could ever repay the investment at current prices/efficiency. I like the idea, but the tech just isn't there yet and I am not independently wealthy to be able to afford to purchase them simply as a matter of ideals.


RE: THIS is whats needed
By kmmatney on 1/25/2013 7:31:31 PM , Rating: 2
"The new solar installation expects to meet 12.5 percent of the Volkswagen manufacturing plant's energy needs during full production and 100 percent of its energy needs during non-production times."

33 acres of land, and it will barely meet 10% of their electricity demand during production. I guess it's a good thing overall, but it seems like those small, underground modular nuclear reactors are the way to go for the future.


"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007














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