Midwest's largest solar thermal array unveiled atop Saint Paul RiverCentre | Xcel Energy Center
Dec 30, 2013

Midwest's largest solar thermal array unveiled atop Saint Paul RiverCentre

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Mayor Chris Coleman and Congresswoman Betty McCollum were on hand today to unveil the largest solar thermal installation in the Midwest. The project, which was led by District Energy St. Paul, sits atop the Saint Paul RiverCentre and was made possible by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) “Solar America Communities” program and matching funds from District Energy St. Paul.

“This installation will stand as a visible reminder of Saint Paul’s commitment toward protecting our greatest resource: the environment. Through incredible community partnerships with organizations like the Saint Paul RiverCentre and District Energy St. Paul, the City has become a leader in sustainability, driving the national conversation on conservation as we strive to improve building efficiency, energy production and our environment throughout Saint Paul,” Mayor Coleman said.

“As a chosen participant in the Department of Energy’s Solar America Communities, Saint Paul is showcasing why we are a cutting-edge leader in energy technology.  We provide clean, local, renewable energy that saves consumers money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, over $90 billion has been invested in what TIME Magazine called ‘the most ambitious energy legislation in history.’ Minnesota currently spends $16 billion importing energy from out-of-state sources, mostly for oil and coal. By pioneering the use of solar technology for thermal energy purposes, District Energy St. Paul provides a more efficient model that keeps more of our energy dollars in the local economy while relying on renewable resources,” said Congresswoman Betty McCollum.

Covering roughly half the size of a football field, the installation adds 144 solar thermal collectors to the unprecedented renewable energy district taking shape in Saint Paul. This system also delivers a significant environmental benefit, displacing carbon dioxide emissions by 900,000 pounds annually, the equivalent to eliminating 90 vehicles from the road each year. 

“District Energy St. Paul was founded on the vision of advancing energy in Saint Paul and becoming an integrated model for the nation. This groundbreaking solar project further advances our historic commitment and showcases the possibilities of integrated energy.  So today we celebrate one megawatt of solar thermal potential thanks to our partners at the City of Saint Paul, the Saint Paul RiverCentre the Department of Energy, and the many engineers, pipefitters, electricians, and steelworkers who made this project a reality,” said Ken Smith, president of District Energy St. Paul.

District Energy’s high-performing collectors generate hot water to be used for space heating and domestic hot water in the Saint Paul RiverCentre. Once the building’s heating needs are met, the system exports excess solar energy to the hot water distribution network serving downtown Saint Paul.  District Energy will operate this installation as an additional energy source for its 183 MW system, which already receives the majority of its energy from a biomass-fueled combined heat and power plant.  The utility will closely monitor the system performance for Department of Energy reporting and explore the potential of this system to transform the solar market. 

“This is really a great model because it benefits our complex and the City,” said Karolyn Kirchgesler, president and CEO of Visit Saint Paul. “It really shows that this isn’t just about making the convention center better, it’s about working together so that Saint Paul can take this step into the national spotlight as a leader in sustainability.”

Saint Paul and Minneapolis are among 25 major U.S. cities working to accelerate the adoption of solar energy technologies for a cleaner, more secure energy future through DOE’s “Solar America Communities” program. This solar thermal installation is one of 40 projects that were selected nationwide and the first to be completed.

DOE’s “Solar America Communities” program is designed to increase the use and integration of solar energy in communities across the United States. Through federal-local partnerships and nationwide outreach, DOE supports local governments’ efforts to accelerate adoption of solar energy. For more information on Solar America Communities, visit www.solaramericacommunities.gov.

Other notable solar installations in Minnesota include Saint John’s University and the Minneapolis Convention Center, both of which are 600 kW systems. The Saint Paul RiverCentre’s installation is nearly a 1,000 kW system.

This project is the first of many in Saint Paul. The City has secured an additional $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds from the Minnesota Office of Energy Security to install solar on approximately 10 City facilities along the Central Corridor, including: Western District Police Station, St. Anthony Park Recreation Center and Rondo Library.

For more information on this project, visit www.solarsaintpaul.com.