Most people would never associate NASCAR with renewable energy.  I think it’s a long way off before solar or biofuel technology is advanced enough to power engines that will allow cars to travel at speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour for hundreds of miles.  I will admit that I have never been a big fan of NASCAR or any other racing sports programs, but when I race across this Chicago Tribune article about a 3-megawatt solar installation at the Pocono Raceway, I had to post it and comment.  I thought it was particularly relevant in light of my last post about the latest developments in solar energy programs in Georgia.

I am a little impressed that an industry that is wholly based upon consuming large quantities of fossil fuels is at least trying to minimize its impact on the environment by embracing alternative energy sources for its stadiums.  It’s this kind of innovation that promotes renewable energy projects and increases public awareness of the benefits and effectiveness of solar projects.

As a quick tie-back to my last post, this project underscores the argument for lifting restrictions or caps on the amount of solar energy that is sold back to the grid and/or for allowing power purchase agreements (PPAs):

The solar field will yield enough power to cover all the racing complex’s energy needs — the garages, concession stands, offices, spectator suites and media rooms — with enough left over to feed 1,000 homes.

The track hosts two annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series summer events, each of which attracts more than 100,000 fans. It also is used by car clubs, driving schools and auto dealerships. During winter, when Pocono is essentially shut down, nearly all the power coming from its solar array will go into the grid for use elsewhere.

Keep in mind that this one project generates 3 megawatts of solar power, which is more than the current cap on the amount of solar power Georgia Power purchases from all private solar installations in the state (2.5 megawatts).

Another key point I picked up from the article was the fact that with the 30% tax credit and state alternative-energy incentives, the project will pay for itself in 6 to 8 years.  That’s the kind of return on investment that really makes these projects worthwhile and cost-effective.

Since the South arguably (and I say arguably, not definitely) has more sun and more NASCAR fans than Pennsylvania, let’s see if we can get some of our southern NASCAR fans and stadiums to embrace this same enthusiasm for solar energy.