State and local officials today unveiled what they say is the largest solar thermal installation in the Midwest. The installation of solar panels on top of the Saint Paul RiverCentre has 144 solar thermal collectors, which they say will displace the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by 900,000 pounds annually – that’s equivalent to eliminating 90 vehicles from the road each year.
The panel installation is roughly half the size of a football field. Nina Axelson with District Energy St. Paul says during warmer months, any excess solar energy after the RiverCentre is heated will be distributed to other buildings in downtown Saint Paul.
“It’s going to generate heat so there is a fluid loop that goes through the panel and it collects the energy from the sun and then it draws it back into the rivercentre to use for heating – so heating the rooms, space heating and then heating up the hot water for the restaurant the catering the bathrooms and then everything else.”
Minnesota spends $16 billion a year importing energy from out-of-state sources, mostly for oil and coal. Officials say alternative energy can help offset some of these costs.
The installation was partly paid for by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Solar America Communities” program and matching funds from District Energy St. Paul. The city has secured an additional $1.5 Million in federal stimulus funds from the Minnesota Office of Energy Security to install solar panels on approximately 10 City facilities along the Central Corridor, including: Western District Police Station, St. Anthony Park Recreation Center and Rondo Library.