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Volkswagen Switches On Its Largest Solar-Energy Complex

Volkswagen AG switched on its largest photo-voltaic installation worldwide as Europe’s biggest carmaker builds on its U.S. auto factory’s recognition by an environmental group for sustainable operations.

The solar park occupies 33 acres (13 hectares) next to the plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where VW produces the Passat mid-size sedan for the U.S. market, and provide 13 percent of energy needs during production hours, the manufacturer said.

“We are proud to power up the biggest solar park of any car manufacturer in North America,” Frank Fischer, head of VW’s Chattanooga operations, said in a statement today.

The 9.5-megawatt solar setup will supply all the plant’s electricity needs when manufacturing lines aren’t operating, Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen said. The car plant, which opened in May 2011, is the first in the industry with top-level platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which rates properties on how well they limit effects on the environment.

Silicon Ranch Corp., based in Nashville, Tennessee, will own the solar park and sell the electricity to Volkswagen under a 20-year supply contract, the carmaker said. German manufacturer Phoenix Solar AG built the system, it said.

Other VW plants using solar power include the main plant at Wolfsburg and a factory in Emden, Germany.

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