Minneapolis Convention Center On Its Way to 2,613-Panel Solar Installation

10/28/2010

MINNEAPOLIS—The solar array at the Minneapolis Convention Center now has 403 of its 2,613 solar panels installed. The Minneapolis Convention Center’s solar array will be the Upper Midwest’s largest solar photovoltaic system, connected directly to the convention center’s internal electrical system and producing 750,000 kWh of renewable energy per year. This system will produce the equivalent of powering 85 homes annually, while offsetting 539 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (the amount given off by 60,587 gallons of gasoline). Solar energy is clean, renewable and—once the capital costs are paid—free.

“The Convention Center is Minneapolis’ living room, where we welcome thousands of guests a year,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak. “Now the first message these guests will get is that Minneapolis is a leader in the clean-energy economy.” Mayor Rybak pointed out multiple significant clean-energy and sustainable projects recently completed or in the works, including the new LEED Public Works building, the Target Center green roof, Homegrown Minneapolis and several other solar-powered City buildings. Mayor Rybak added, “Another tenet of sustainability is using local partners and local labor, and we welcome the contributions of Westwood Professional Services and IBEW Local 292.”

“The Renewable Development Fund’s objective is to support new renewable energy technologies by funding research and the development of projects,” said Judy Poferl, president & CEO Northern States Power-Minn., an Xcel Energy company. “Xcel Energy is proud to be a part of the region’s largest solar photovoltaic array, which will make this one of the nation’s greenest convention centers.”

Panels Not Visible from Street Level

The 600 kW system will be made up of 2,613 panels installed at an angle on the flat portions of the roof, and will not be visible from the street level. The photovoltaic systems will be owned and operated by the developer and privately financed. The City will lock into a long-term contract with a fixed energy cost as a hedge against future energy price increases. This will stabilize annual budget fluctuations over the life of the system.

After a request for proposals and a very rigorous selection process, the City chose a local development team led by developer Best Power Int’l and Westwood Professional Services, a renewable energy design and engineering firm that designed and built the 1,820-panel solar array at St. John’s Abbey and University. The $2 million Renewable Development Fund grant and federal tax incentives for renewable energy make the project possible without any capital investment by the City. The system will be owned by Best Power Int’l, which will lease the roof for the system from the City of Minneapolis. All of the equipment is manufactured in the United States, with local electricians and roofing technicians training on the installation. Overall, this project will generate approximately 30 jobs including development, design and construction.

The solar panels will give the convention center yet another dimension to the many efforts already serving clients who look more and more for a facility operating sustainably. An energy audit is planned for the convention center to reduce its energy use wherever possible. Other responsible practices at the convention center include recycling and composting 27.8 tons of materials per month, conserving water and electricity, cleaning with 95 percent Green Seal-certified products, donating surplus food to local organizations and recycling food preparation waste at local hog farms. A list of sustainable practices is available by clicking here.

City Already Committed to Solar

Minneapolis already has three solar arrays producing power for City facilities, lowering energy costs and making the buildings more environmentally friendly. The three solar installations save the City $1,300 on its electricity bill and reduce carbon dioxide output by 24,272 pounds each year. The array at Fire Station No. 6 generates 5 kilowatts of power, an array at the Currie facility generates 4.2 kilowatts, and a tracking array at the Royalston Public Works facility generates 2.6 kilowatts of power. The new array will generate more than 100 times more power than the City’s current largest array.

Minneapolis is recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country. This solar array in the works is just one of many examples of how City government has led by example and taken advantage of the benefits of being green. City Hall and Target Center have green roofs to manage rainwater. These keep rivers, lakes and creeks cleaner. The City has adopted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards, requiring new or significantly renovated City facilities to meet some of the highest standards for sustainability in their planning, design, construction and commissioning.

An ordinance limits vehicle idling in the city to reduce emissions, and Minneapolis is the first U.S. city to require higher fuel efficiency for taxis. The City’s innovative storm water utility program has dramatically increased the use of rain gardens and other effective practices to protect lakes from storm water runoff. Minneapolis has also created a unique program to provide micro-grants to community organizations to support their efforts to fight climate change.

To learn more about Minneapolis’ sustainability efforts, click here.


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