Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway, known to NASCAR fans as the “Tricky Triangle” for its unusual layout, is now home to a gigantic 40,000 panel solar power installation. The new solar array broke ground last year and just went online this week. It is expected to generate about 72 million kilowatt hours of clean power over a 20-year lifespan, and it is believed to be the largest solar installation at a sports facility in the world.
The new solar array will offset more electricity than the raceway uses, leaving enough left over to power about 1,000 homes. The track’s owner, Dr. Joseph Mattioli, sees the $18 million investment in solar energy as a potential profit center for the facility, and he foresees the potential for future expansion. If he can make it work, don’t be surprised to see solar panels sprouting up at other points on the NASCAR circuit in the near future.
Sports and Renewable Energy in the Pocono Mountains
The Pocono Mountains region is a sports paradise, and the high profile of Pocono Raceway’s solar installation may touch off a surge of interest in renewable energy by other recreation facilities in the area. The owner of one ski resort, Camelback Mountain Resort, has already taken steps to push wind power front and center as a renewable power source, anticipating demand not only from his resort but as an industrywide trend. With Pennsylvanians facing an ever-mounting pile of damage caused to the state’s natural resources by fossil fuel harvesting, including the decades-old Centralia coal mine fire and the impacts of natural gas drilling, sports facility owners may be betting on sustainable energy as a selling point that attracts and keeps loyal customers.
NASCAR and Sustainability
As for NASCAR, the organization is out to prove that even an industry that burns fuel as its raison d’etre can take some steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions, conserve resources and reduce its use of toxic chemicals. Some of the measures include using LEED standards in new construction, developing alternative fuels, and introducing hybrid vehicles. In April NASCAR launched a tie-in with Office Depot, which purchased EarthEra renewable energy credits to offset a race at the Phoenix International Raceway, and it has introduced a tree planting program. NASCAR is also working with the U.S. EPA to reach out to fans and is encouraging top drivers like Jeff Gordon speak out on behalf of hybrid cars (yes, he drives one) and other sustainability issues.
Image: Pocono Raceway by us44mt on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.