The City of Columbus, Ohio, is using solar power for its fleet facility. Photo courtesy City of Columbus.

The City of Columbus, Ohio, is using solar power for its fleet facility. Photo courtesy City of Columbus.

The City of Columbus, Ohio, has installed solar panels on its fleet facility to provide power for the building. Government Fleet spoke with Kelly Reagan, administrator for the City, about this project and how it benefits the City and the fleet department.

The solar array is made up of 2,650 solar panels manufactured by General Energy Solutions, which actually owns the array. The solar array will produce 802,000 kilowatt hours per year, and the nameplate capacity of the array is 636 kW. Each panel can produce 240 watts of DC power, which is converted into alternating current using two Advanced Energy Solutions inverters. Reagan said they will generate more than 800,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power 85 homes. These panels will also reduce the City's greenhouse gas emissions by 566 tons.

The solar array project did not cost the City anything for equipment, installation, and will not cost any recurring maintenance fees as it is part of a 20-year lease agreement with General Energy Solutions, Reagan said.

The solar panels will save approximately $23,000 annually, based on historic electricity costs for the building. Photo courtesy City of Columbus.

The solar panels will save approximately $23,000 annually, based on historic electricity costs for the building. Photo courtesy City of Columbus.

The solar buy-back rate is 33% less than the City’s current rate of $0.09 per kWh at $0.06. Potential annual savings is approximately $23,000, based on historical electricity costs for the building, Reagan said. He said the City’s fleet maintenance building will use most of the power the array generates. The system will feed any leftover power back to the grid, pursuant to a Net Metering and Interconnection Agreement with American Electric Power, and will be credited to the City’s usage.

The array can produce approximately 40% of the power the Fleet Maintenance Building consumes each year and provides the ongoing environmental benefit of clean power.

“For our region, solar power generation is cleaner than our utility’s coal-fired turbine generated power,” Reagan said.

Mayor Michael Coleman dedicated the project on May 9, 2013 along with elected officials (Council Member (Finance Chair) Priscilla Tyson & Franklin County Commissioner Paul Brooks, affirming the city’s continued commitment to the implementation of “green” technologies throughout the city.

Reagan said the project went fairly smoothly.

“A good bit of engineering was done in order to confirm that the current roof’s infrastructure would withstand the weight of the entire project,” Reagan said. “Once the project had investors, the installation process has been fine with the usual construction project coordination issues (scheduling, weather, material delays, etc.).”

Looking ahead, Reagan said discussions are underway to expand the array to other City-owned buildings and incorporate power from it for the City’s compressed natural gas fueling stations.

By Greg Basich

Updated 5/23/2013 with information on greenhouse gas emissions reduction and number of kilowatt hours of power produced.

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