This year will cap an impressive string of environmental feats for one auto manufacturer.

Some time before the end of 2012, Volkswagen USA will flip the switch at its manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., and turn on the power from a newly constructed solar park. The 9.5-megawatt photovoltaic (PV) system will cover approximately 80 acres and use more than 34,000 PV panels, making it the largest PV park in the state. The ground-mounted installation will provide about 13.5 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually to the plant. The company will use the power to provide its Enterprise South industrial park factory with about 12.5 percent of its energy needs.

Tennessee-based Silicon Ranch Corp. will own the system, and Arizona-based Phoenix Solar will install and operate it.

As impressive as it is, the PV system is only the latest of several sustainability feats the plant has accomplished in the last year or so. In 2011, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the factory LEED Platinum certification. It is the only automotive manufacturing plant in the world to receive this honor.

Earlier this year, the plant also received the prestigious Gold 2012 Edison Green Award, the highest award among Green Award winners. It recognizes excellence personified by Thomas Edison in innovation, creativity and ingenuity. A panel of more than 3,000 judges representing various professions—including marketing, product development, engineering, science and academics—determines winners. In granting the Green Award to Volkswagen, the panel specifically recognized the Chattanooga facility’s environmental and sustainable achievements.

Volkswagen’s Chattanooga facility is a cornerstone in the company’s worldwide “Think Blue. Factory.” initiative, a commitment to improve environmental efficiency in automotive manufacturing by 25 percent by 2018.