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Published on August 4th, 2010 | by Christopher DeMorro

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Pocono Raceway Now Powered By The Sun

Racing is not very green, and yet it continues to amaze me how many in the racing world are taking clean energy seriously. A great example is the American Le Mans Series, which continues to promote hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles at its races. Even the greenest cars can’t green a whole race track though, which often covers hundreds of acres and on race day can accumulate epic mounds of garbage.

Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania is taking a pro-active step in greening their facility. This past weekend they threw the switch on the largest solar array in Pennsylvania, which not only provides power to the massive race track, but 1,000 nearby homes as well.

The 3 MegaWatt solar array is placed right next to the race track, which is perhaps better known as the “Tricky Triangle”. Since Pennsylvania decided to deregulate its power industry, costs started going up by as much as 40%, so the race track’s owner, Doc Mattioli, looked into alternatives. He settled on building a $16 million, 25 acre solar facility nearby. It provides plenty of power and then some for the track and outbuildings. By pumping power back into the electrical grid, the race track is also earning itself green credits, which it can later sell to less-clean industries.

The system is expected to pay for itself in just four or five years. You can’t put a price tag on energy independence though, and hopefully other race tracks will start paying attention and incorporate more solar systems. I love to see racing go green; I am still eagerly awaiting a petrol vs. electric car race though. THAT would be fun… but I guess I’ll settle for solar panels for now.

Source: NASCAR

Chris DeMorro is a car enthusiast, blogger, and all-around crazy man who is as passionate about hybrids as he is about Hemis. You can follow his constant misadventures at Three Months In A Mustang.


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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • http://maxhedrm.montebellopark.com/blog/ MaxHedrm

    So, it’s green to bulldoze 25 acres of trees? Just saying.

    Perhaps they should have put in ‘covered parking’ using solar awnings and then wouldn’t have needed quite so many acres.

  • http://maxhedrm.montebellopark.com/blog/ MaxHedrm

    So, it’s green to bulldoze 25 acres of trees? Just saying.

    Perhaps they should have put in ‘covered parking’ using solar awnings and then wouldn’t have needed quite so many acres.

  • Josh G

    that is a really good point MaxHedrm.

    Company’s that are interested in going green should consider this option, as parking lots are basically wasted space, and covering them would reek lots of benefits. I know i would love to park in a covered garage because then when you get into your car to leave the place you don’t have to run the A/C as long to cool the car down, saving more gas in the long run. Plus they wouldn’t have to pay as much money to bulldoze down those trees.

  • Josh G

    that is a really good point MaxHedrm.

    Company’s that are interested in going green should consider this option, as parking lots are basically wasted space, and covering them would reek lots of benefits. I know i would love to park in a covered garage because then when you get into your car to leave the place you don’t have to run the A/C as long to cool the car down, saving more gas in the long run. Plus they wouldn’t have to pay as much money to bulldoze down those trees.

  • http://pinkyracer.com Susanna Schick

    yeah. I’ve raced there, on the infield courses and they do need a lot of that runoff, but not all of it. And even still, the panels could be placed higher around the edges of the outer track too. I’m glad they did this, but they didn’t need to cut down 25 acres of forest, even though forest runs rampant in those parts!

    as for EV vs ICE, you can already see that in dirt bike racing. Zero’s electric bikes are KILLING it in head to head competition against ICE bikes.

  • http://pinkyracer.com Susanna Schick

    yeah. I’ve raced there, on the infield courses and they do need a lot of that runoff, but not all of it. And even still, the panels could be placed higher around the edges of the outer track too. I’m glad they did this, but they didn’t need to cut down 25 acres of forest, even though forest runs rampant in those parts!

    as for EV vs ICE, you can already see that in dirt bike racing. Zero’s electric bikes are KILLING it in head to head competition against ICE bikes.

  • http://Web Check your facts

    Please show your figures for the 4-5 year payback time!
    $16 million to produce 1 million KWH in just under 4 months. Based on 1999 figures of $.08 per KWH that is $80,000 in just under 4 months. Say it was 3 months that would be $320,000 per year, for a $16 million investment.(That is a 50 year pay back time) Roughly $4.8 million was chiped in by the taxpayers (federal tax credits)Reducing the payback time to 35 years. Another source said that the track would save $500,000 per year = a 32 year payoff time of the $16 million.
    With the same 25 acres growing alge est. to produce 2000 gallons per acre per year of diesel = 50,000 gallons/year selling that fuel at $2 per gallon would net $100,000 per year. NASCAR transport trucks paying $2/gallon for fuel would save them money as well and might just lead to lower ticket prices at the track.

    • http://www.sublimeburnout.com Christopher DeMorro

      @ Check Your Facts

      According to you, the Feds chipped in about $5 million, bringing the track’s investment down to about $11 million. If the track bills were $500,000 annually (which sounds about right to me) that would be a pay back time of 22 years. So already your math is flawed, nevermind that you’re using “facts” from over 12 years ago.

      Also, PA’s deregulated energy industry was going to increase standard energy pricing by about 40%, according to the track’s owner. So, factor in the money saved compared to what Pocono Raceway WOULD have been paying had it not gone solar, and you can easily bring the pay-back time down to around a decade, if not less. This solar array also has an expected lifetime of about 40 years. So even if it took the full 22 years to pay back, you’re still talking about 18 years of “free” energy. There are your lower ticket prices.

      Sorry, but I don’t think NASCAR is going to make the jump to algae fuel anytime soon.

      • Check Your Facts

        The article says “The system is expected to pay for itself in just four or five years” Yet in your responce a 10 year payback of the investment is estimated based on future increses on electric rated that may or may not happen. Yes my rate quotes were from 1999 because I could not find curent figures and rates vary from commercial and residential. So at $.15 per KWH (the highest rate I could find for PA) that would be $600,000 per year. That is 18.6 years to pay off the $11.2 million after fed subsidies. I will not speculate on future cost because there are too many things that can change them.
        18 years is a lot more than 5 years. Also there is no mention of potential hail damage cost, the fact that the sun will oxidise the glass of the panels making them less productive over time, and the cost to mitigate this issue or the simple fact that there are cost for either someone to sweep snow and dust off the panels or the loss of power production if they do not.
        However you missed the point that solar PV only creates electricity and noone has been able to answer my question “how does creating only electricity solve the foregin oil problem?” By investing the money that is being misspent on solar pV systems on systems that create electricity and liquid fuel the foregin oil problem does get solved.
        Also to MaxHedrm they did not bulldoze 25 acres of trees they instaled the solar PV panels on an old parking lot, but your idea of incorporating them into something else that would benefit others is a good one and further supports my point that more needs to be done with what we have. I suspect that the possibility of some race fan crashing into a suport pole of the covered parking was a factor in the decision to not do it that way, also there would have been a higher cost for that.

        • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

          US accounting is screwy – you can’t get any sort of handle on any of this without the full report, a team of CPAs, an actuarial staff, and (God willing) a hot PA (of your preferred gender, I’m not here to judge anyone). That said, there is NO QUESTION that we’re not doing enough with what we’ve got.

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