Minnesota's Dakota County has approved the installation of four solar panel arrays that will be used to provide energy to county buildings, including the fleet maintenance building.
The county will pay $130,000 for the $1.3 million installation by taking advantage of incentive programs for renewable energy, and plans to recoup the money in energy savings within 12 to 14 years, said Taud Hoopingarner, the operations management director of the Physical Development Division.
It wasn't until the state changed its laws on third-party financing that Hoopingarner was able to make the case for purchasing the arrays based upon a reasonable return on investment.
Through its contact with Newport Partners, the county is leasing a portion of its facilities to construct and operate the system, but it will treat the agreement as a transfer of ownership for tax purposes. The project makes use of the Xcel Energy solar rewards program, which provides a rebate per kilowatt produced, and federal tax credits acquired by Newport Partners. The lease-purchase agreement gives the county an option to own the system after six years.
Newport will install three arrays on the roof of the fleet storage building and one ground-mounted array in the same campus. Each array provides 40 kWh of power each to fleet storage, a radio tower, the transportation facilities, and the communications center.
The four buildings use a cumulative total of 1.4 million kWh per year for an annual cost of approximately $143,402. With the 160 kWh of solar panels, Hoopingarner estimates the County will save $15,613 in the first six years and $1.2 million over 40 years.
The savings go back into the county's electricity budget rather than the budgets of individual departments.
"All expenses from our buildings are budgeted in the Facilities Management Department," Hoopingarner explained. "Electricity for all county buildings is paid for out of one line item."
The solar array will power buildings, as well as vehicles. The fleet owns two Chevrolet Volts and two Vantage EV 1000 electric pickups. The fleet department will charge two vehicles with the array.
By Thi Dao