Europe’s largest car manufacturer has turned on their largest solar power plant, but it isn’t located in Germany – it’s in Tennessee. The 9.5 MW solar park covers 33 acres near Chattanooga and generates about 13% of the energy used by the Volkswagen plant during production. When manufacturing is not taking place, the photovoltaic (PV) system will provide all the plant’s electricity.
This particular plant focuses on building Passats for sale in the United States. About 3,000 people work there, and it was the first auto manufacturing facility to receive LEED Platinum certification. This rating is the highest given by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building certification program.
It was earned due to the fact Volkswagen used about 48% recycled materials during construction of the facility. Also, almost 78% of construction and demolition waste was salvaged or recycled. The Chattanooga Passat factory cost one billion dollars to construct.
Volkswagen also uses solar power at their German facilities in Wolfsburg and Emden. Employing clean energy sources is part of a green campaign called Think Blue. “Think Blue is Volkswagen’s commitment to reach the highest level of environmental protection and corporate social responsibility in everything we do,” explained Dr. Jan Spies, Head of Factory Planning, Volkswagen AG. (Source: SSOE)
Though the Passat reputation has taken some dings over the years for the sedan’s reliability issues, the 2012 version was selected as the Motor Trend 2012 Car of the Year. This honor may have resulted from Volkswagen gathering specialists from other divisions to focus on resolving manufacturing problems at the Tennessee plant and being successful in their efforts.
The Passat diesel is rated at about 40 mpg on the highway, but one reporter said he achieved over 50 during some drives.