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Volkswagen’s already green Chattanooga plant goes even greener with a little help from the Sun

Volkswagen’s massive Chattanooga manufacturing plant, home to such popular models as the Passat, was built to be as environmentally friendly as possible. All manner of energy-saving techniques were employed, and the plant remains the only automotive manufacturing facility to have been awarded Platinum certification by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Part of what makes the plant so green is that it uses hydroelectric power as much as possible, but now a new form of clean energy is in the mix as well.

Volkswagen has now opened a new solar field which will provide 9.6 megawatts of direct current, about 12.5 percent of the plant’s total usage. The solar field goes far beyond any previous such endeavor. As the Washington Post reports. the 33-acre $28 million array is the largest solar field attached to an industrial plant in the world. It was built in a partnership with Silicon Ranch, which has a deal with Volkswagen to operate the array for the automaker.

Previous energy-saving measures used by Volkswagen have resulted in substantial savings in manufacturing costs, but that isn’t so much the case with this solar field. There won’t actually be any real advantage coming from this project in terms of Volkswagen’s bottom line. The idea is rather to give a further boost to the company’s green image, which is good PR for any company seeking to take sales away from Toyota. We can probably look for more VW plants to follow suit, and it’s even possible that some meaningful data on large-scale solar power operations can come from this venture as a bonus.