By Steven Penn
In an effort to expand its commitment to renewable energy and environmentally conscious initiatives, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) will partner with SunWize Technologies, Blue Renewable Energy, and the Indianapolis Power and Light Company to build a 25-acre solar farm on IMS property northeast of the track.
According to the IMS, the installation will be the largest solar-power system hosted at any sporting facility in the world, consisting of 39,312 solar modules, which will generate 9.6 megawatts of power.
Per information released by IMS, construction of the ground-mounted system by SunWize Technologies, based in San Jose, Calif., is slated to begin in May, with an anticipated completion later this year. It was noted that construction will not interfere with any IMS racing events.
IMS officials expect the initiative to be equal to offsetting 10,288 tons of carbon annually.
This is just the latest of recent on-track green initiatives, which include the use of fuel-grade ethanol to power cars in the Indianapolis 500, E85 fuel powering NASCAR cars in the Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard, and the Emerging Tech Day during the Indianapolis 500, including the Purdue eV Grand Prix.
“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was constructed over 100 years ago as a proving ground for new technologies in transportation and over the years it has seen various types of energy used to power race cars around the 2.5 mile oval,” Jeff Belskus, IMS Corporation president and CEO, said in a press release. “As we have explored renewable energy options for the automobile, we also began to look at renewable energy options for the facility itself and we are pleased that a portion of IMS property will be used to generate solar power through this partnership.”
Doug Boles, chief operating officer for IMS, said Speedway offcials decided some of its less-utilized land would be perfect for a project like this.
“Energy (consciousness) has been a conversation that many folks
have been having,” he said. “We had an opportunity to find a couple of different organizations to talk about potentially using some of our property that is a little less accessible. It’s property that we currently don’t use as muc). We don’t park cars there, but we do some facility storage there. We have some other equipment on the land, but we thought maybe this was a better use for the land in the time being.”
He said the solar project is a private-public partnership featuring national and Central Indiana companies, all of which consider finding creative solutions to increasing sustainability by helping to increase sources of renewable energy generation important.
“Our organization, at its core, is a racing organization,” Boles said. “We’re not an energy company, so we’ve partnered with a couple of companies who can help us actually turn it into solar power. We talked to several companies before we chose to work with SunWize and Blue. It just turned out that they were the ones that could best complete this project for us in the partnership that we were looking for.”
Boles said the IMS is looking forward to getting the project underway.
“Construction (will be) going on here (in) late spring,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have that up and running pretty quickly. We’re excited about the project. It’s not cars, but it’s certainly new technology and we’re excited about having the Speedway as part of this new technology.”
SunWize Technologies, Inc., and Phoenix-based Blue Renewable Energy have co-developed the project, while Blue Renewable Energy has entered into a land-lease agreement with IMS to build the system on the property.
The system will be designed, engineered, and installed by SunWize Technologies. The system inverters, racking, and wiring will all be made in the United States. Indianapolis Power and Light Company (IPL) will be the system off-taker under the terms of a Power Purchase Agreement, subject to the approval of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, and will own the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) produced by the solar power system.
“We have been co-developing this project with SunWize for over a year, and we are tremendously pleased with our accomplishments,” Mike Lafferty, president of Blue Renewable Energy, said in the press release. “This project will really shine a spotlight on the significant environmental and social benefits of renewable energy. We are thrilled to partner with SunWize and the Speedway on a project that will continue to have a positive impact for years to come.”
Ken Zagzebski, IPL president and CEO, said the company is excited for the partnership.
“IPL is proud to be part of this project with IMS, the largest spectator sporting facility in the world and a global icon for Indianapolis and the state of Indiana,” he said. “Solar generation plays a significant part of maintaining our leadership in renewable energy technologies, which also includes wind generation and plug-in electric vehicles.”
In addition to the IMS plan, IPL customers and developers plan to add more than 30 new solar generation systems to IPL’s service territory under agreements filed by IPL with the Indiana Utility
Regulatory Commission (IURC) for approval. These new projects would increase the total solar power under contract by IPL to nearly 100 megawatts.
Other proposed projects range from as small as a pair of 20 kilowatt projects at Maple Creek Village Apartments on the near Westside to as large as two 10 MW (each) arrays at the Indianapolis International Airport.
If all of the projects are completed, IPL will likely rank first in the central region for solar generation.
“Solar generation is an important part of IPL’s commitment to developing renewable generating resources,” Zagzebski said. “We have increased our renewable resources portfolio, ranking eighth in the U.S. in available wind-capacity on a per customer basis, and we look forward to this possible significant increase in solar generation.”
In addition to IPL’s renewable generation portfolio, if all of these projects are completed as planned, they are projected to bring $300 million of direct investment to the Indianapolis area.
IPL customers already own or host 2.1 MW of solar generation through projects completed with eight commercial and industrial customers in its service territory. These projects, as well as the proposed new projects, are all part of IPL’s three-year Rate Renewable Energy Production pilot program, which is now closed to new participants.