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Toyota HQ harnesses power of the sun

The installation is expected to be the largest behind-the-meter solar power system in Texas upon completion

The 8.79-megawatt SunPower solar energy system takes shape. Picture courtesy: Axium Solar
The 8.79-megawatt SunPower solar energy system takes shape. Picture courtesy: Axium Solar

SunPower has begun construction on an 8.79-megawatt SunPower solar system at Toyota Motor North America’s new headquarters in Plano, Texas.


Close to one megawatt larger than originally planned, it is expected to be the Lone Star State’s largest corporate office on-site solar installation among non-utility companies. The automaker plans to occupy the premises later this year.


The system is expected to generate enough clean energy to offset approximately 33 per cent of the headquarters’ energy needs, reducing Toyota’s reliance on traditional electricity from the grid.


Some 50 certified workers are now installing high-efficiency SunPower solar panels on steel carport structures across the top of four parking garages. When complete, more than 20,000 solar panels will cover the area equal to 10 football fields, offering shade and protection to vehicles underneath.


"We are excited to see this solar power project start to really take shape on our new headquarters campus," said Kevin Butt, regional director, North American environmental division, Toyota. "As a long-standing solar advisor, SunPower is helping us realise Toyota’s 2050 global environmental challenge to eliminate carbon emissions in all operations."


Toyota is integrating a range of energy efficient technologies and sustainable materials into the design of its state-of-the-art campus, with the intention of achieving LEED Platinum certification by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).


SunPower’s 20 per cent efficient E-Series solar panels selected for this project are Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver, which may provide Toyota a significant advantage toward reaching that goal. SunPower is the only solar panel manufacturer in the world to achieve this certification, which demonstrates a product’s quality based on rankings in five categories: material health, material reutilisation, renewable energy use, water stewardship, and social fairness.


"We’re proud to partner with Toyota on this innovative solar project as the company works to achieve its ambitious sustainability goals," said Nam Nguyen, SunPower senior vice president. "The unique long-span carport design will feature SunPower’s high reliability solar panels that deliver 30 per cent more electricity than conventional solar, optimising Toyota’s renewable energy investment."


As a result of 14 years of partnership, SunPower solar power systems is currently operating at a number of Toyota facilities in the US. Toyota is financing the SunPower solar project installed at its Plano, Texas, location through a power purchase agreement (PPA) arranged by SunPower, which allows Toyota to buy power at competitive rates – acting as a hedge against future utility rate increases – with no upfront capital cost. Toyota will own the renewable energy credits associated with the system.


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