Solar at the speedway: NASCAR aims to make racing more eco-friendly

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While nearly every pro sports league can boast multiple stadiums, team facilities, and venues that are home to solar installations, the relationship between solar and sport is perhaps most interesting when considered alongside stock car racing–a historically eco-unfriendly endeavor.

In recognition of this reality, NASCAR, the nation’s premier stock car racing league, has instituted a number of policies under its Green initiative to attempt to improve the sport’s environmental impact.

While the NASCAR Green initiative looks to create more energy-efficient car designs, run cars on ethanol fuel, and design tracks to be more eco-friendly, six of the sport’s major raceways have taken matters into their own hands, installing solar installations of various sizes on or at the speedway.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Image: Renu Energy Solutions

In Charlotte, North Carolina, 773 photovoltaic modules make up a 247 kW array that houses the speedway’s  Turn 4 Sun Deck. The installation was developed by Renu Energy Solutions and installed in 2017. The panels create a facade that provides shade to fans perusing the entertainment, food, and lodging options located at the deck.

Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway

Image: Sonoma Raceway

Across the country, in Sonoma, California, a 353 kW installation lines Turn 10, a portion of the grandstands, the Russell School of Racing, and a restaurant at Infineon Raceway. Completed in June 2011 and developed by Panasonic Enterprise Solutions, the solar arrays offset up to 41% of the racetrack’s electrical load. The installation consists of 1,580 SANYO HIT Power 215 W solar panels and 72 SANYO HIT Double bifacial 195 W solar panels.

Daytona International Speedway

Image: Florida Power and Light

The venue that hosts one of NASCAR’s most historic and prolific races, the Daytona 500, is also home to a 2.1 MW solar project installed by Florida Power and Light (FPL) in 2016.

The FPL Solar Circuit includes three solar arrays, located at the Midway, Sprint FANZONE, and Lot 10 parking area, which form canopy-like structures and provide shade for visitors. The FPL Solar Circuit is also a live laboratory for solar energy research, focused on improving the integration of solar energy and smart grid technologies.

Pocono Raceway

Image: Pocono Raceway

In Pennsylvania, nearly 40,000 photovoltaic modules make up the 3 MW installation at Pocono Raceway, completed by EDF Renewables in 2010. The installation was among the first that started the trend of installing solar at sporting venues, being recognized as the world’s first privately owned solar-powered sports facility.

The raceway installation was also an early adopter of another trend that’s becoming common with solar projects: using a flock of sheep to manage vegetation levels at the site.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Image: Swinerton Renewable Energy

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Solar Farm is a 9 MW project located adjacent to the actual speedway. It holds the designation of being the largest solar farm at any sporting facility in the world. (For now, at least. More on that later.) The project went live in 2014.

SunWize Technologies and Blue Renewable Energy co-developed the 39,312-panel project. The system was built by Swinerton Energy, while Indianapolis Power & Light Co. is the system off-taker under the terms of a power purchase agreement and owns the solar renewable energy credits produced by the system.

Watkins Glen

While the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Solar Farm currently holds the record for the largest solar farm at any sporting facility in the world, that’s all set to change in 2022 when the 50 MW Watkins Glen Solar Energy Center Project is completed.

Located in Watkins Glen, New York, the project is being developed by NextEra Energy Resources and broke ground in 2019. Like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Solar Farm, the Watkins Glen Solar Energy Center will be located adjacent to the track itself.

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