NASCAR “Tricky Triangle” To The Rescue (With Renewable Energy)

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The triangular shape of the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania is unique to the NASCAR circuit, and that’s not the only interesting feature of stock car racing’s “Tricky Triangle.” Pocono Raceway has been making renewable energy news since 2010, when it became the first sports venue in the US to install a utility scale solar array on site. So, what have they been up to since then?

Pocono Raceway In The News

Pocono Raceway made the news this week after Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro tweeted out the latest update on the Interstate 95 debacle. Traffic on the vital East Coast artery ground to a halt on June 11 after a tanker truck loaded with 8,500 gallons of petroleum product burst into flames under an overpass in Philadelphia.

Repairs were expected to take months, or not as the case may be.

To rebuild I-95 on time, we need 12 hours of dry weather to complete the paving and striping process. With rain in the forecast, we reached out @PoconoRaceway for help — and they’re bringing their jet dryer to Philly to help dry this section of I-95 and keep us on schedule,” Shapiro tweeted on June 22.

With the Pocono Raceway dryer in hand — a Chevy Silverado retrofitted with a helicopter turbine, according to a report by Philadelphia radio station WHYY — six temporary lanes are expected to open on June 24, with final repairs to follow.

If you’re thinking the new 2024 electric Silverado was involved, guess again. The Raceway’s jet dryer is an older model that has probably been around the track more than a few times, going by the photo on the WHYY website.

More Renewable Energy For Coal Country

As for the 3-megawatt solar array at Pocono Raceway, it is small by today’s standards, but it was billed as the largest of its kind at any sports venue in the world when it started churning out clean kilowatts in 2010.

The array is also significant as an early example of agrivoltaic practices, in which livestock grazing or other types of farming can take place within a solar array. A flock of sheep is currently in residence there, keeping the grass trim without the need for mowing equipment.

As an early adopter of utility scale solar, Pocono Raceway brought the renewable energy message home to Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, not too many people were listening. The Keystone State remains one of the top fossil energy-producing states in the nation.

“Pennsylvania is the second-largest net supplier of energy to other states, after Texas,” the US Energy Information Agency reported last year, underscoring the fact that Pennsylvania is still clinging to its fossil energy past. The state also places an unenviable #4 in state-by-state greenhouse gas rankings.

More Renewable Energy For NASCAR

While utilities in Pennsylvania have fallen down on the renewable energy job, Pocono Raceway did set an example for corporate renewable energy buyers. The Solar Energy Industries Association lists Lineage Logistics, Target, and Prologis among the leading businesses with rooftop or ground mounted arrays in hand.

Pocono Raceway also continues to promote recycling and other sustainability actions at the track. As a NASCAR venue, Pocono Raceway also participated in the organization’s tree-planting program back in 2013.

Other early sustainability efforts by NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) included a 2012 agreement with the US Environmental Protection to promote eco-friendly products throughout the organization and its concessionaires. NASCAR followed up in 2013, entering a partnership on new vehicle technology with the US Department of Energy.

The organization also joined the Obama administration’s push to promote workplace EV charging in 2014. It also hooked up with the American Council on Renewable Energy that year, under a partnership with Lockheed Martin to bring ACORE’s wind, solar, and biofuel displays to NASCAR venues.

Though on site solar is still rare around the NASCAR circuit, purchasing renewable energy credits can make up the difference. The Nashville Superspeedway, for example, reached a renewable energy credit deal with its utility to provide for 100% of the venue’s electricity at this weekend’s sold out Ally 400 NASCAR event.

NASCAR Inches Towards Electrification

After 2014 NASCAR fell off the CleanTechnica radar. It popped back up in 2020 when word slipped that Ford’s new Mustang Mach-E would make an appearance as a pace car, which it did in 2021.

Last year, rumors started swirling about the possibility of an actual EV race at a NASCAR track, at least on an exhibition basis. Last February cited NASCAR CEO Steve O’Donnell, who told the audience at a 2022 “state of the sport” conference that the “ideal world for NASCAR is you can show up at a race track and you can see any form of motorsports you want, any type of power, electric, hydrogen.”

“You want to see some loud engines going out there — that’s NASCAR, too,” O’Donnell added.

For now, NASCAR seems more content to rest its renewable energy laurels on biofuel for ICE engines. Last year the NASCAR marked 20 million miles driven on Sunoco’s Green E15 fuel blend, composed of  15% bioethanol. The organization estimates that it has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from its three national touring series since 2011 with an assist from biofuel.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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