Sonoma, California may be known as one of the best areas in the country to make wine, but Steve Page hopes to make it known for something much more important.
The president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway is working tirelessly to make his racing facility as environmentally friendly as possible.
For Page, that begins by looking at everything the company is doing as a whole and trying to lessen the lasting footprint on the planet. From adding solar panels to the property, to utilizing organic gardens, to using sheep to maintain the landscape around the facility, Sonoma Racing is working hard to be a leader in the environmental sustainability.
While some of the changes made to the facility were a result of federal and state tax credits, Page quickly points out the main driving force behind Sonoma Raceway’s push to be more green was a collective effort by the track’s employees and the sponsors that offer support.
"Frankly, I think it reflects the philosophy of the people that work here," he said. "It is something we place priority on. We are a publicly traded company, so the things we do have to be economically viable, and in many cases we have found ways to launch some of these programs through partners such as Panasonic, Yokohama and Safety-Kleen. We have been able to enlist the support of corporate partners that help make these things economical."
Much like other tracks across NASCAR, Sonoma Raceway installed a solar farm five years ago to utilize renewable energy to power the track. Partnering with Panasonic as a part of a larger project focused on being more green, the solar farm consists of 1,652 panels and produces nearly half of the power needed for the facility.
Page and his staff are continuing to look at ways to expand the solar capabilities moving forward, and are working through financial and logistical issues to make that happen in the coming years.
Along with making a push to use more renewable energy such as solar power, Sonoma Raceway has also eliminated the use of fossil fuel burning lawn care equipment by bringing in nearly 3,000 sheep to maintain the 1,600-acre property.
In addition to the solar farm and the sheep, Sonoma Raceway also introduced an organic garden that has been in use for the past two years. The garden is not yet large enough to fulfill the needs of the entire track and all of the guests in attendance, but the all natural products are used in the high level hospitality suites throughout race weekends.
While there are a host of projects underway around the facility to make it more sustainable, Page understands the actual racetrack can help make a difference in making the world more environmentally friendly.
"We want to be the place where new green automotive technologies are showcased," Page said. "We have hosted summits focused on green initiatives and also look for opportunities to put those kinds of things into competition. We hosted the first ever electric motorcycle race in the United States five years ago."
Page admitted it was a novelty to see the motorcycles whiz around the track making little sound, but the racing action was not competitive enough to maintain interest. In addition, he pointed out the electric motorcycle industry is not caught up enough to take the product on the track and produce a similar vehicle for the consumers.
The electric motorcycles were not the only environmentally friendly vehicle to hit the twists and turns of the California road course. Unbeknownst to the Sonoma Raceway staff, the facility also served as the test track for the Tesla S Sedan.
"They rented the track under a different name," said Page. "We finally figured it out when we saw these cars going around the track and didn’t hear any noise. They were covered up and didn’t have any (identifying) badges on them, but we quickly figured out who it was."
Although the electric motorcycle racing did not pan out as planned and Tesla used the facility under a veil of secrecy, Page hopes Sonoma Raceway emerges as the place to showcase new, more environmentally friendly automotive technologies moving forward.
Moving forward, Page admits gains made in terms of recycling and landscaping will be incremental, because the track has already made those high priorities and have made great strides in those areas. However, when it comes to making a serious impact on the environment and sustainability, Page circles back to Sonoma Raceway being a facility in which green automotive technologies are developed and showcased.
Much like other NASCAR industry partners, Sonoma Raceway is also fighting to break the stereotype that a stock car racing series cannot possibly be environmentally friendly at the same time.
"We’ve generated a fair amount of coverage because it’s a ‘man bites dog’ story when a motor racing venue makes its energy and places a priority on being green," said Page.