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Innovation

Toyota's solar-powered car...factory

It's in sunny England. Near where water first powered the Industrial Revolution's textile mills, the Japanese car maker is installing five football fields of solar panels to produce 7,000 cars a year.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor

Derbyshire county in the heart of England is historically famous for giving rise to the “modern” factory system. It was here that rivers powered the water wheels of the Industrial Revolution’s early textile mills.

Now, over two centuries and a few economic cycles later, Toyota is turning to another force of nature: the sun. The Japanese carmaker has announced plans to install 17,000 photovoltaic panels at its factory in the village of Burnaston, outside the city of Derby.

That’s enough panels to generate 4.6 gigawatts of electricity a year, which Toyota says it will use to produce 7,000 cars annually – Auris hybrids, plus conventional Auris and Avantis models.

Toyota claims that the solar power will reduce carbon emissions by 2,000 tons of CO2 per year.

The company describes the project another way for its English audience, noting that the same amount of electricity over the same time could make 150 million cups of tea.

So how much area does it require to photovoltaically make that much hot beverage, or 7,000 cars? Toyota says the panels will cover the equivalent of 4.3 soccer fields (this is the land of Wayne Rooney, not Tom Brady or even Ben Roethlisberger), so figure roughly 5 American football fields.

Which begs the question: how does Toyota happen to have that much real estate? Was the land once destined for factory expansion in headier growth times, perhaps?

Whatever the answer, Toyota says it hopes start tapping electricity from the £10 million ($16.4 million) project this July, in partnership with its utility provider British Gas (don’t’ be fooled by the name, BG sells electricity too). If all goes to plan in England, then it would provide good testimony to solar power’s ability to work in cloudy climates. It would also help weave a new chapter in a renewable power story from the old country.

Photo: Toyota

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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