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Green Flag for Green Power at Michigan International Speedway

Tina Casey headshotWords by Tina Casey
Data & Technology

If you've been following the sustainability initiatives of racing tracks affiliated with NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), the idea of a green auto racing industry is beginning to make sense. Last Sunday, the Michigan International Speedway chipped in with its own addition to the effort.

The Speedway made a high-profile pitch for renewable energy in partnership with the utility Consumers Energy, using its Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup event as the springboard for announcing a raft of new green energy programs.

As part of the historically petroleum-dependent NASCAR circuit, the Speedway's contribution to sustainability offers some dependable guideposts for businesses seeking to transition into a more sustainable energy model, so let's take a closer look and see what they're up to.

Sustainability at Michigan International Speedway

The Speedway's sustainability announcement included several different aspects that are familiar territory by now. They are notable because they are widely available to practically any company or organization, whether or not fossil fuels are central to their business model.

First, the Speedway will become the largest among 20,000 customers to purchase 100 percent of its power through the Consumers Energy Green Generation renewable energy program. Green Generation dovetails with the Obama administration's focus on a diversified renewable energy future that takes advantage of local and regional energy assets.

Currently included in Green Generation are wind power (about 76 percent as of 2013) and landfill gas (about 24 percent), all produced within Michigan. The utility's renewable energy profile also includes biomass and a longstanding (early 20th century) involvement with hydroelectricity.

Tree-planting is a familiar action for offsetting carbon emissions that also factors into the Speedway's plans. In partnership with Consumers Energy, the Speedway will plant a total of 6,000 trees in Michigan to offset two race weekends.

Energy efficiency upgrades are another well-worn ground for improvement, and the Speedway's new announcement also includes a pledge to work with Consumers Energy on cutting energy consumption at the track.

Sustainability actions tailored for Michigan International Speedway

There are a couple of unique aspects to Michigan International Speedway that also factor into the new plans.

In and around the facility are more than 2,200 campsites, where racing fans put down for overnights at the track. The Speedway and Consumers Energy will use the opportunity to promote Green Generation and energy efficiency to the overnight guests.

Another feature of interest is the Speedway's expansive grounds. Other tracks on the NASCAR circuit have begun to take advantage of their real estate to invest in on-site renewable energy, and the Speedway has pledged to work with Consumers Energy to identify solar, wind or other potentials.

Is more green in store?

Some of the actions taken by NASCAR also offer a hint at other strategies that could become part of the green culture at Michigan International Speedway. The organization has been introducing its fans to electric vehicles, bio-based auto products, recycling and a safe driving campaign that overlaps with fuel-saving driving habits.

Image (cropped): Michigan International Speedway by Brian Rawson-Ketchum.

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Tina Casey headshotTina Casey

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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