Pocono to construct world’s largest solar energy project

Pocono Raceway, which hosts two Nascar Sprint Cup races each year, plans to construct the world’s largest solar energy project at a sports facility.

Track officials said they would announce the project with a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, two days before the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at the track in Long Pond, Pa.

“I think it’s unique," Pocono Raceway’s president, Brandon Igdalsky, said in a telephone interview this week. “I think that the fact that it’s a raceway that’s going to be the sports facility that’s really going to go all out and do this, I think it definitely puts us in a league of our own."

About 40,000 photovoltaic panels are to be installed on 25 acres across the street from the racetrack on property that had been used as a parking lot for races. The solar farm is expected to generate three megawatts once it is completed, in spring 2010, making it Pennsylvania’s largest such facility, Igdalsky said. The project is expected to cost $15 million to $17 million but more than pay for itself over time.

A number of prominent sports sites use solar energy, including Taiwan’s National Stadium, which recently hosted the World Games; AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants; Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians; and the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf in Bern, Switzerland.

But Pocono’s solar farm could generate the most power by far. Igdalsky said the track decided to go this route when deregulation threatened to raise the track’s annual power bills by nearly 40 percent, to as much as $500,000.

“We needed a way — how can we save the most money on our power usage?" Igdalsky said. “It’s good for us. It’s good for the environment. It’s good for the community."

Pocono Raceway officials anticipate generating considerable money each year — in the “seven figures," Igdalsky said — by selling the energy produced to PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that operates a wholesale electricity market and grid. More at NY Times

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