"When I imagine the future, I believe solar will be a big part of how we produce energy. I can't see any other form of energy that is as eco-friendly and scalable as solar. I'm passionate about it and want to bring it into the sport I'm passionate about."
Stefan Wilson’s #THINKSOLAR campaign is a testament to solar’s acceleration into mainstream America.
TerraSmart had the pleasure of meeting Indycar driver Stefan Wilson earlier this month at our Intersolar booth in San Francisco. That may be the last place one would expect to find a racecar driver, but Stefan is as passionate about clean, renewable energy as we are. Plus, he has big plans to impact the carbon footprint of the Indycar sport. We contacted him to learn more.
With a long tradition of racing in his family, Stefan Wilson was invited to make his Indy 500 debut last May in the Verizon-sponsored No. 25 Driven2SaveLives-KVRT Chevrolet. Rather than just putting tire to track, Stefan used the centennial Indy500 as a launch pad for his new #THINKSOLAR campaign designed to bring ecological awareness to a fossil-fuel-powered sport at one of the greatest events in racing.
The Indy 500 has served as an innovation showcase for the automotive industry for decades, rolling out advances like turbo-charging into mainstream motor vehicles and more. But, times are changing and racing is too. Stefan believes it’s time to see solar-powered paddocks, pit lanes and tech hubs. With gasoline generators currently powering nearly every garage on the track, Stefan’s desire to revolutionize the sport with clean energy solutions could not be more timely as solar power is becoming more accessible every day.
“When I imagine the future, I believe solar will be a big part of how we produce energy. I can’t see any other form of energy that is as eco-friendly and scalable as solar. I’m passionate about it and want to bring it into the sport I’m passionate about.”
~ Stefan Wilson
Stefan’s goal to utilize various aspects of solar technology at the Indy 500 even extend to powering some of the cockpit electronics with a small photovoltaic panel built onto his 230-mph car. In coming races, he envisions replacing the gas generators used to power telemetry instruments with solar panels and having the roof of every garage at the brickyard support clean energy with solar panels, with the hope to expand solar’s role at the Indy 500 to all participating racing teams.
The #THINKSOLAR campaign is determined to get drivers and their fans excited about solar. In future races, Stefan’s team will be able to track the production and the use of solar power in the pit and stream it live on the Internet for fans to watch how solar is working to make the car faster. Stefan believes that through showcasing solar technology in auto racing, Indy fans will begin to recognize the value of solar power in their own lives, helping the proliferation of solar in everyday life.
#THINKSOLAR – MAKING AN IMPACT
Other aspects of the #THINKSOLAR campaign reach audiences outside of global motor racing:
- STEM Education: The campaign’s work with NREL’s Junior Solar Sprint in Indiana, a program that works with teams of middle school students to build and race solar-powered cars, inspires future generations to innovate with clean energy. Stefan’s goal is to promote STEM education by replicating this program to other race car communities worldwide.
- Global Stewardship: #THINKSOLAR has partnered with SolarAid, a non-profit in the UK that helps communities in Africa replace toxic kerosene lamps with solar-powered lighting. Through #THINKSOLAR, Stefan was able to offset his team’s entire carbon footprint in the Indy 500 with 32 solar powered lights, replacing 48,000 pounds of kerosene and drastically improving the safety and indoor air quality for the families that use them.
SPEED IS NOT ONLY AT INDY
Bringing solar to auto racing events that captivate millions around the world is a boon for clean energy. But solar velocity is not for car racing alone.
Solar energy’s adoption in the U.S. has accelerated at top speeds in recent years. At TerraSmart we associate the thrills of auto racing with our own excitement over the double-digit growth that the solar industry and its consumers have experienced across the country.
According to recent data from the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) the industry is booming:
- The U.S. solar market in 2016 has reached 29.3 gigawatts (GW) of total installed capacity, enough to power 5.7 million American homes.
- Solar now accounts for 64% of new electric capacity additions in the U.S., outpacing conventional sources of electricity.
- With more than 1 million individual solar installations nationwide, the industry is on pace to nearly double in size in 2016.
- Every 2.5 minutes, American workers install a new solar system, adding more than 200,000 solar workers to the U.S. economy.
- It took four decades to install one million solar systems, but it will take only two years to add the next one million systems. 
We look forward to watching Stefan’s progress in Indycar both on the track and with his #THINKSOLAR campaign. With small changes in our own lives, we can help make solar an easy choice for everyone, and we can enjoy the amazing ways technology, and even race cars, are helping to make it all possible.
 Solar Market Insight Report 2016 Q2, Solar Energy Industry Association & Greentech Media, June 2016
*All images courtesy Stefan Wilson Racing