Infineon Raceway's Solar-Powered Drive to Accelerate Sustainability

Infineon Raceway's Solar-Powered Drive to Accelerate Sustainability

In partnership with Panasonic, Northern California's Infineon Raceway is boosting its sustainability drive with a solar power system that now supplies 41 percent of the facility's electricity.

Completion of the installation is the latest development in the raceway's Accelerating Sustainable Performance program and will rival another component of the green campaign -- the sheep that crop the facility's grasslands -- as an attention-grabbing visual signature for Infineon's environmental efforts.

The 1,652 panels for the 353-kilowatt solar power system roost atop five sites at the 1,600-acre facility -- the main grandstand; the sound wall at Turn 10 of the twisting 2.5-mile track; the facility's main office; the Tech Center of the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School, (which includes modular structures by green building innovators Project FROG); and the Raceway Cafe.

The 3,000 sheep, which are supplied by Rocky Mountain Wooly Weeders, graze on slopes above the raceway. They've lived on the property since 2008, when the facility added "green mowing" and other eco-friendly measures to activities that included comprehensive recycling, an effort begun in 2004.

To site the solar arrays, facility operators chose the locations that were best for capturing the sun's rays and people's attention, said Steve Page, Infineon Raceway's president and general manager. "We consciously set about identifying the most visible places on the property," said Page in a news conference on Saturday to announce that the solar energy system is on line and delivering power.

The announcement by Page and Jim Doyle, president of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company, came on the weekend that NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series came to Infineon.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, like other major pro sports in North America, is working to ease the environmental impacts its operations and push a green message out to its 70 million fans.

At Infineon, a 43-year-old facility that hosts a variety motor sports events 340 days a year, Page acknowledged that the intersection of environmental concerns and the racing industry may be difficult for some people to fathom.

"The idea of a motor racing facility launching a sustainability initiative may seem a bit counter-intuitive to a lot of people and I want to make sure I articulate the spirit of what we are doing," Page said. "It's very important for us to demonstrate that are options in the sustainable world where you don't have to compromise performance.

"The point we're trying to make is whatever assumptions you might have about someone in our industry, we have a very strong belief in operating as a sustainable business. It's something we want to wear very prominently and set an example to the folks who come out and use this facility."

The efforts at Infineon are being watched by its fans as well as others in the sports industry, said Doyle. He conceded, though, that when he first heard about the green vision for the facility, his initial thought was "it's kind of ironic when you think of a racetrack."

"But then I looked out the window and saw 1,000 sheep mowing the lawn," Doyle said. "That's real. These guys really mean it here."

Panasonic, the sponsor of the raceway's technology center, also provided a two-sided LED video board for the facility. With a display board that's almost 6 feet high and 17½ feet wide, the sign is visible from a nearby highway. It's made up of 57,600 LEDs, draws its power from a solar tracker and uses half the energy of its predecessor, which contained about 7,000 traditional bulbs.

The raceway and Panasonic estimate that the solar installation, not including the new sign, will save 34,000 barrels of oil over a 30-year period.

 

In response to a question from GreenBiz.com, Page said he could not provide an exact ROI for the green energy system, which is tied to other aspects of the raceway's work with Panasonic. But he said the installation pencils out well. "The ROI is substantial ," said Page. "It makes sense for us strictly in terms of a pure business decision."

The arrays are owned by the raceway -- unlike solar power systems on some commercial properties, which serve as a host for installations and get a better rate for electricity, but do not finance, own or operate the systems that are placed on their sites.

In August, Infineon plans a summit on "Accelerating Sustainable Performance" to discuss how to advance green innovation. Participants are expected to include sustainability leaders from the motor sports industry, academia, Panasonic, biofuels company Amyris, which is lead sponsor for the event, and others.


Here are some of the other environmental measures at Infineon Raceway:

 

Waste Management -- The raceway has recycled 141 tons of material since 2004. Its efforts have been recognized by the state of California. The tally from recycling in 2010 includes more than a ton of aluminum, almost 5 tons each of glass and plastic, more than 6 tons of metal debris, 7 tons of tires and about 25 tons of cardboard.

Concession stands and vendors use biodegradable paper trays and liners; beverages are served in recyclable containers; and 99 percent of cups are made from recycled or biodegradable content.

Plates, napkins, cutlery and cups used in spectators' suites also are made from recycled or biodegradable content. As of 2011, the caterer for the facility, Levy Restaurants, is no longer using plastic, single-use serving platters in the suites or for catering.

Water Conservation -- Infineon has its own water system and sewage treatment plant and does not rely on municipal or county services. Recycled and reclaimed water is used to irrigate landscaping. Flow-saving fixtures include waterless urinals, which reduce water consumption by about 36 percent.

Using Nature to Control Nature -- In addition to being a home for sheep, the facility also welcomes owls, which hunt gophers and other rodents. The raceway has installed 15 owl boxes on the site to encourage the birds to nest. A family of barn owls can consume as many as 40 rodents a night, the facility estimates.

Greener Vehicles -- The pace car for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 race in the Sprint Cup Series last weekend was a Toyota Camry Hybrid. Infineon uses Toyotas in its fleet and more than 25 percent of them are hybrids.

Last year, the first zero-emission motorcycle race in the U.S. was held at the raceway, which brought the TTXGP Series back to the facility in May.

Green Cleaning -- As of this year, 90 percent of the custodial products used at the site are considered environmentally friendly.

NASCAR-Related Green Efforts at Infineon include:

Tree Planting -- As part of NASCAR’s Green Clean Air project, Infineon Raceway plants 10 trees for every green flag dropped during NASCAR races at the facility. So far, the raceway has planted more than a 100 trees in nearby Petaluma and Vallejo.

Motor Oil Refining -- Infineon also works with Safety-Kleen to recycle oil products used at NASCAR and National Hot Rod Association events held on the property.

Photos from Infineon Raceway.