In a sign the start of production is in sight, Volkswagen is turning on the auto plant's advanced utility systems, officials said Wednesday.
"In terms of technology, it's the most advanced worldwide," said Dieter Schleifer, manager of plant infrastructure for VW in Chattanooga. VW has 60 facilities globally.
Inside the 35,000-square-foot utilities building that VW officials call the "media center" are systems which will use water, electricity, natural gas and compressed air to cool, heat and operate the plant.
The building is next to the plant's paint shop, which uses the most energy and cooled water, said Chris Johnson, VW's assistant manager of facilities-plant infrastructure.
He said 2,500 gallons of water a minute can be pumped through each of the center's cooling towers.
Water is also used to cool the tips of many of the plant's robotic welders, Schleifer said.
The center additionally houses air compressors which power pneumatic equipment in the 2 million-square-foot plant, where production is to start early next year, officials said.
The center is environmentally friendly as is the rest of the $1 billion factory, they said.
Rainwater collected at the center is eventually used to cool equipment, Schleifer said.
VW, trying to make the plant the South's first to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, estimates energy savings of up to 35 percent compared to older auto factories its size.
The media center's hot and cold water valves and piping are insulated to gain energy savings, officials said.
Inside, the center uses high-efficient lighting, Johnson said. Sensors automatically turn off the lights when no one is moving in the building for a period of time, he said.
In case of a fire, the center houses a 500,000-gallon tank along with pumps that operate on diesel-powered generators in case electricity is cut, Schleifer said.