California's Sonoma County may be known for its wine, but it may soon be famous for pulse-pounding feats of green technology as well as Infineon Raceway just teamed up with Panasonic to unveil a massive array of 1,652 solar panels. Spread over five separate sites throughout the raceway, the 353 KW photovoltaic installation is able to provide 41% of the facility's energy needs. Panasonic and Infineon invited me up to the track this past Saturday to check out the new solar array as well as the facility's other green initiatives, which include a sun-powered LED billboard and a flock of 3,000 lawn-mowing sheep - read on for an exclusive first look!
Panasonic started installing solar panels at Infineon Raceway last November, and they just announced the completion of the project this past weekend. The arrays feature Panasonic’s high-quality HIT photovoltaic panels, which are counted among the most efficient single-crystalline silicon PV panels in the world.
The installations are prominently featured atop many high-profile spots throughout the complex, including the main grandstand, the turn 10 sound wall, the Raceway Café, the Jim Russel Racing Drivers School, and the Infineon administration building. Thousands of NASCAR race fans flock to the track every weekend, so the panels are sure to get lots of exposure as they soak up the region’s abundance of sunshine.
Infineon Raceway also unveiled a new LED billboard alongside Highway 37 that is completely powered by a sun-tracking photovoltaic array. The brilliant display features 57,600 LEDs and it shines brighter than the billboard that it replaced while consuming 50% less energy. The quirky critter perched on top the sign is a hot-rodding cow sculpture that was preserved from the raceway’s original signage.
The raceway also formed a relationship with Rocky Mountain Wooly Weeders that has populated the site with a full-time flock of 3,000 sheep. As the herd ranges through the hills they graze upon grass, eliminated the need for noisy CO2-belching lawnmowers. The track’s other green initiatives include plans to recycle old tires into asphalt, reduce water consumption by 36%, and offset the emissions of each race by planting ten trees for each green flag.
You may be thinking the same thing we were: why would a colosseum dedicated to automotive might invest in such an extensive green initiative? Although the majority of the races held on-site are focused around fossil-fueled vehicles, it’s clear that Infineon Raceway President and General Manager Steve Page is pushing the facility towards more efficient, performance-driven technology. The raceway’s massive new photovoltaic installation makes a convincing case for the benefits of green tech, and it stands to introduce tens of thousands of race fans to renewable energy – a field they may not be familiar with.
Signs of change are also stirring on the track – the raceway has already hosted the first electric motorcycle race on US soil and they have plans to kick off an electric vehicle drag race this summer. The field of high-performance electric racing is still nascent and there are many challenges to surmount – Page said that current EV’s lack the range necessary for a credible race – but by focusing on areas where EVs excel (such as high torque for drag racing) the raceway may stoke fire to a new generation of green speed demons.
All photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat.
Transportation to Infineon Raceway provided by Panasonic.