[caption id="attachment_27263" align="alignright" width="360" caption="A rendering depicts how solar panels will look when placed above the Turn 10 sound wall on the road course at Infineon Raceway."][/caption]

SONOMA COUNTY – Infineon Raceway and Panasonic Corp. have partnered to turn the performance racing center into a showcase for green technology.

Infineon President and General Manager Steve Page lauded the partnership as the first major building block in an initiative to change the face of high-performance auto racing.

“It might seem ironic that a horsepower-and-performance center is championing green technology, but we’re well-positioned to bring the message to a sector that might not otherwise be exposed to it,” he said.

The centerpiece of the Panasonic collaboration will be a 350-kilowatt solar installation of 1,652 solar panels placed in five high-visibility locations on the 1,700 acre site in south east Sonoma County.

A solar-powered, dual-sided LED board will replace the energy-gobbling electric-lit marquee on Highway 37. The total installation will provide 41 percent of the raceway’s energy use.

“This is our first major solar installation at a sports venue,” said Lesley Poch, director of marketing for Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co., a division which supplies the sports and entertainment industry.

Panasonic recently purchased solar panel producer Sanyo with the idea of broadening its offerings.

“This is a perfect place for our new solar products. Panasonic and Infineon think alike about sustainability,” she said.

Installed by REC Solar of Petaluma, the solar project will begin in January and be completed by April.

In addition to upgrading its off-track sustainability, the raceway is looking to extend its green philosophy to the track itself.

Infineon hosted the first electric motorcycle race in the U.S. in June: the TTXGP U.S. Championships, a series that will return in May. The raceway was also one of the first circuits in the country to use a hybrid vehicle – a Toyota Camry – as the pace car for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

“The goal is to include low- or no-carbon racing as support features at each of our major events. Ultimately we’d like to establish Infineon as the hub for new carbon-free or carbon-reduced race technologies,” said Mr. Page.

Currently, performance electric or hybrid autos are not as advanced as motorcycles, he conceded, but Infineon intends to pioneer the sport as it develops.

“Performance is what we offer our audience, and it’s what they expect of us. That’s why our green initiative needs to be the most comprehensive of any raceway,” he said.

Infineon has already undertaken a series of sustainability measures, including contracting with Safety-Kleen of Rohnert Park to recycle more than 200,000 gallons of used motor oil each year from racing events.

The raceway maintains a flock of 3,000 sheep to maintain grasses and fire lanes and employs water-conserving restroom facilities. It’s been recognized by the state for its recycling efforts.

“The first step has been to put our own house in order. The solar alliance with Panasonic represents the next step,” said Mr. Page. “Now we’re ready to carry the message to our audience of racing fans.”