City council to vote on solar array proposal

The Minneapolis Convention Center may be getting a solar array.

James Nord

After some delay, a solar panel array proposed for the Minneapolis Convention Center is set to be approved by the city council Friday. The proposed 600-kilowatt installation would occupy about half the convention centerâÄôs flat roof, offsetting yearly energy use by 5 percent to 8 percent. A council committee recommended Best Power International, a Minneapolis based firm, to install and operate the array. âÄúIâÄôm excited about it,âÄù said Cam Gordon, Ward 2 councilman. âÄúIâÄôm very hopeful that this project will âĦ give us an opportunity to show how the city can be a leader in development of solar power.âÄù The city itself wonâÄôt invest any money directly into the array. Instead, Best Power will install the panels using private funds and a $2 million grant, selling power back to the city. A yet-to-be negotiated 20-year contract will determine the specifics of the deal. Best Power will also train Minneapolis electricians on the workings of the solar panels. The cost of powering the building would increase from $18,000 to $21,500 annually if the proposal is passed, according to a city council document. The city initially partnered with Colorado-based firm EyeOn Solar and secured a state grant that included both parties as recipients. However, delays and unfulfilled obligations caused the council to terminate their agreement with the firm, said Minneapolis Energy Manager Brian Millberg. If the council proposal is passed, negotiations to make the city the sole recipient of the grant will occur in the first week of February. If it is approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in April, construction could begin in May or June and the array could begin generating power in October, Millberg said. The array is part of a Minneapolis initiative to produce one megawatt of power from renewable sources on city buildings by 2015, Millberg said. âÄúWe really want to help be a leader and help leverage other resources around so that we can do our part to use less carbon and help fight climate change,âÄù Gordon said.