Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Clean energy drives automotive safety

Operated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Vehicle Research Center conducts crash tests and other evaluations on new model cars and light trucks that encourage automobile manufacturers to make safer vehicles. To study the performance of safety features such as airbags and automobile body materials in a simulated vehicle collision, each crash test is captured in video by several high-speed cameras posted at a variety of angles. To capture details clearly in rapid motion, the cameras in the facility’s crash test hall require extremely bright lighting, provided by high-powered bulbs that draw large amounts of electric power. Running the lights is so expensive that the Center has instituted strict procedures to operate the lighting system only when necessary.

The Research Center went solar in two phases through a power purchase agreement where Secure Solar Futures owns and operates the equipment and sells all power generated to the customer, typically at rates lower than the local electric utility. 

In January 2017, the facility began generating electricity from a 258 kilowatt ground-mounted solar array that maximizes solar radiation received. The initial solar array covered 34% of the power required to operate the Vehicle Research Center. In November 2019, Secure Solar Futures completed installation of a second ground-mounted solar array with a capacity of 207 kilowatts, giving the Vehicle Research Center a total of 1,329 panels with a total capacity of 465 kilowatts.

Generating its own power on-site is expected to save the Vehicle Research Center $506,625 over the 35-year lifespan of the solar array. And using clean solar energy cuts 556,099 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Over the life of the system, using clean power will keep the equivalent of 18,794 barrels of oil in the ground.

Live Energy Monitoring

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IIHS Ruckersville Facility

The Challenge

Cut costs and reduce carbon footprint for energy-intensive crash testing facility

The Result

Secure Futures installed a 465-kilowatt ground-mounted solar power system at the Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Virginia