There is a new landmark that can be seen from outer space, and it is located next to the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond. A massive solar power field has been erected by the Pocono Raceway to break ground as the first sport facility to be run on sustainable energy. Their dedication to the environment and to becoming leaders in the field of sustainable energy in the sports industry, has earned Pocono Raceway and NASCAR praise and admiration. It is hoped that once other sporting facilities recognise the potential and advantages of sustainable energy, they too will make the necessary changes to promote an environmentally friendly industry.
The piece of land utilised for the construction of the solar field belongs to the racecourse and was used for parking until the course was able to provide alternative parking spaces for its thousands of NASCAR enthusiasts. Each solar panel is three mega-watts, and to harness enough power to run the entire racecourse a staggering 39 962 solar panels were installed. The solar field covers an area of twenty-five acres and the solar panels form part of a photovoltaic ground mounted system. President of the Pocono Raceway, Brandon Igdalsky, explained the reasoning behind the solar field, saying: “Pocono Raceway strongly believes in the NASCAR industry’s commitment to operate in a more environmentally responsible way and is proud to be the first race track to power our sport with clean, renewable sunlight as the world’s largest solar-powered sports facility. This solar power system, built with timber, steel and solar panels made in the U.S., satisfies all our Raceway’s energy needs, while helping to power local homes. This project demonstrates real sustainability and proves that any business that truly wants to go green can do it.”
The huge undertaking of developing the solar power field was taken on by enXco. NASCAR voiced their approval through the CEO and President of NASCAR, Brian France, confirming NASCAR’s dedication to developing renewable energy, and is excited to be a part of the sustainable energy adventure that Pocono Raceway is embarking on. They have become a testing ground for renewed energy sources, and new innovative technology that will assist in conserving the environment. They are beginning to pave the way for other industries, and are a brilliant example to other sports facilities and organizations.
Every two years a number of ‘special’ cars are shipped to Australia where they participate in a race known as the Panasonic World Solar Challenge. The race sees these cars cross the Australian continent with only one source of fuel – the sun.
Building a car that is capable of completing the 3,000 km journey from Darwin to Adelaide in dry, hot, dusty conditions powered only by solar power, can prove to be quite a challenge. Special teams need to be assembled to accomplish the task and Toronto team Blue Sky Solar Racing is constantly striving to attract world class engineers, environmentalists and scientists to help them to accomplish this goal. In the 2007 challenge, the team managed to come first amongst fellow Canadians and it was fifth overall in its class. Now Blue Sky Solar Racing is looking ahead to the 2009 race with plenty of ambition. Not only do they want to improve on their previous performance, but according to Andreas Marouchos, their singular mission is “to demonstrate the viability of alternative energy technology and the practical benefits of a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems.”
A constant supply of new blood is supplied in the form of the University of Toronto as a number of team members involved in the design of the vehicles are often first or second year engineering students. The team also uses the Dassault SystSmes Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tools. These include the ENOVIA SmarTeam data management technology and the CATIA virtual 3D design software. In order to speed up the design for the 2009 car, the team plans to use ENOVIA SmarTeam to work on complete assemblies in context. This will save time because it means they will be able to look at the bigger picture without having to focus so intently on the individual parts. Being able to look at the bigger picture also means that ways of reducing vehicle weight and so increase speed will also be easier to spot.
The final result is a great team working on a great concept car at a fantastic pace. The students that get involved with the program will get invaluable hands-on experience in automotive design and the software used in the design process as well as the opportunity to work alongside some really experienced industry experts. All this goes a long way toward finding more efficient ways to design new car parts. Heads will definitely turn when the Blue Sky Solar Racing team takes part in the 2009 Panasonic World Solar Challenge.
Once every two years, teams from various research establishments and universities across America get together to participate in the American Solar Challenge (“ASC“). In order to enter each team has to design, build and race (or ‘rayce’ in solar race terminology) a solar-powered car in this exciting and fun cross-country event.
The inaugural race was held in 1990 and was originally called a “Sunrayce“. The first Sunrayce was organized and sponsored by General Motors and the continued existence of the race is a testament to the success of this historic event. Thus far the Sunrayce has been held on a regular basis every two years with the exception of the first two races which had a three-year time gap between them.
In 2001 the race was renamed the ‘American Solar Challenge’ and it has since been sponsored by the United States Department of Energy as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The benefits of this prestigious event have become apparent over the years because each year the competition reveals new inventions, concepts and designs that are exhibited and carefully evaluated for their scientific and commercial potential. Since 2005 the race has gained the additional sponsorship of Natural Resources Canada and it has been renamed the ‘North American Solar Challenge’.
Most team participants are from universities throughout United States and Canada. These universities offer ideal testing grounds since students are often able to devise with creative, new and inspiring concepts and they are unconstrained by the limitations of commercial entities.
For 2005, the North American Solar Challenge requires concept cars to travel across the United States and well into Canada – which tests all design and mechanical aspects of the entrants. The cars are required, not only to travel long distances, but also judged according to efficiency.
Over the years, the performance of the automobiles has drastically improved. The first winner of the event was “Sunrunner” – built by the University of Michigan. The Sunrunner recorded an average speed of 24.7 mph over 1800 miles.
In 2005, the race spanned an impressive 2494.9 miles and was won yet again by the University of Michigan. That year, the average race speed 46.2 mph. Rules limit that maximum speed of the vehicles to 65 mph and both of the top two teams in the 2005 race managed to reach and maintain this speed.
Event organizers, participants and industry sponsors hope that this competition will improve the research and design of cars and will one day allow consumers to enjoy solar power automobiles without polluting the earth’s atmosphere, negatively impacting global warming or degrading our limited natural resources.