Installation of largest solar array in the upper Midwest under way at Convention Center

The installation of the Upper Midwests largest solar photovoltaic system is underway at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The solar array, which has 1,250 of its 2,613 panels installed, will connect directly to the convention centers internal electrical system and produce 750,000 kWh of renewable energy per year when completed. The system, being built by a local development team led by Best Power Intl and Westwood Professional Services, 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.

A view of the solar array panels atop the Minneapolis Convention Center

The solar panels are being 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 by Best Power Int’l, which will lease the roof for the system from the City of Minneapolis. 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.

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 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. 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.

Minneapolis already has three solar arrays producing power for City facilities, saving $1,300 on its electricity bill and reducing carbon dioxide output by 24,272 pounds each year. The array at Fire Station No. 6 generates 5 kilowatts of power, an array 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.

See a list of sustainable practices at the Convention Center.

Published Oct 6, 2010