Racing is a longstanding and hugely popular spring and summer tradition in the U.S. And when it comes to car racing events, they don’t get any bigger than the Indianapolis 500. The world’s largest single-day spectator sporting event, the Indy 500 covers 500 miles – 200 laps on the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval.
Built for speed and getting a whopping 3 miles per gallon, Indy racing cars conjure up what the American Chemical Society referred to as “images of gas-guzzling, pollution-belching environmental menaces” – not exactly “in tune” with a nationwide clean energy and energy efficiency drive.
As it turns out, the ethanol blends now being used in Indy race cars actually make their emissions cleaner than those of the cars Americans drive every day, however. That’s not all the organizers of the Indy 500 are doing to clean up their energy act.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 1 marked the opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) Solar Farm. Consisting of 39,312 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels ground-mounted along an under-utilized portion of the 1,000-acre campus, the 9-megawatt (MW) PV installation is the largest solar farm at any sporting facility in the world, according to an IMS press release.
The 9-MW Indianapolis Motor Speedway Solar Farm
Co-developed by San Jose, California’s SunWize Technologies and Phoenix-based Blue Renewable Energy, the IMS Solar Farm will offset the equivalent of 10,288 tons of carbon per year.
Blue Renewable Energy entered into a land-lease agreement with IMS to build the PV system on the property. SunWize was responsible for its design, engineering and installation, while Clenera and Swinerton Builders completed the engineering and construction for Centaurus Renewable Energy.
The electricity produced by the solar farm is to be purchased by Indianapolis Power & Light (IP&L) through a power purchase agreement (PPA), terms of which were not disclosed. IP&L will own the solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) the system earns.
Commenting on the commissioning of the 9-MW solar farm, IMS President J. Douglas Boles said:
“In 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was constructed in part to help advance the automotive industry, which at that time was the new technology of the day. Today, IMS is honored to be part of a partnership with IPL, SunWize and Blue Renewable Energy where innovation and technology are coming together to bring diversification of generation resources to this community.
“The unused land at the IMS property just east of the race track has been transformed into a solar energy production facility that will provide an alternative source of energy to IPL customers.”
The president of AES’ U.S. Strategic Business Unit, which owns IP&L, added:
“Solar generation is an important component of IPL’s commitment to developing renewable generation resources. The new IMS solar farm will be a constant reminder to those who visit the largest spectator sporting facility in the world of the creative solutions taking place here in Indianapolis to increase sustainability.”
IMS provided the following infographic, which lists facts and figures related to the new solar farm:
Image credits: Indianapolis Motor Speedway