Audi to install Europe's largest rooftop solar array in 'climate-neutral' bid

Carmaker Audi has unveiled plans to install a 12MW rooftop solar array across two of its logistics centres in Hungary, in a drive to make the facility's operations carbon-neutral.

An artist's impression of the array, which is expected to begin generating power next year. Image: Audi

An artist's impression of the array, which is expected to begin generating power next year. Image: Audi

As part of a 25-year partnership with energy firm E.ON, Audi will install solar panels across 160,000 sqm of roof space at its Audi Hungaria plant in Győr.

The photovoltaic (PV) energy array will consist of 35,000 solar cells and is expected to have an annual output of more than 9.5GWh – an amount E.ON claims is equivalent to the annual energy demands of 5,000 Hungarian homes. E.ON has additionally forecast that the array will mitigate the emission of 6,000 tonnes of CO2 every year.

The Audi Hungaria plant is already running on 70% renewable energy, predominantly from geothermal generation. The automotive giant believes the new array will push this proportion past the 100% mark, enabling the facility to run entirely on zero-carbon power.

“Our goal is to have completely CO2-neutral plant operation in the future and with the construction of the solar-cell park, we are now taking a further step to achieve this in terms of power supply,” Audi Hungaria’s chair Achim Heinfling said.

“We are committed to the economical use of resources and therefore want to keep the environmental impact of our production as low as possible.”

Construction for the onsite solar array will begin in August. It is expected to begin generating power in early 2020.

Climate-neutral carmaker

The announcement comes at a time when Audi AG, the automaker’s global group, is striving to achieve climate-neutrality at all of its production sites by 2030.

The company is currently altering its energy purchasing agreements and investing in more onsite arrays as it works towards this goal, in a bid to meet all of its energy demands with clean power “as soon as possible”.

Its Brussels plant, for example, was recently fitted with a 37,000 sqm rooftop solar array and is heated using biogas. The emissions generated by the facility’s company cars, oil heating activities and solvent burning are offset using carbon credit purchases, making its heat and electricity carbon-neutral. 

As for the decarbonisation of its vehicle portfolio, Audi is developing an electric model for each of its series – a move it claims will see one in three customers choose an e-model within eight years. It is targeting sales of 8,000 electric cars annually by 2025.

As part of this shift towards electric mobility, the company has begun working on a number of innovative technologies which could further improve the environmental credentials of its electric vehicles (EVs).

Last year, for example, it began developing a vehicle with a solar roof, after working on a new damper prototype that will convert kinetic energy from driving over potholes and bumps in the road into electricity.

Audi has additionally developed traffic light technology that could potentially cut CO2 emissions by 15%. The traffic light sends information via the ‘in car-internet’, displaying a countdown to the next green light and interacts with the engines ‘start-stop’ function, ensuring engines are switched on five seconds before the green phase.

Sarah George



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