Austin Energy wraps up solar project

June 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

AUSTIN (KXAN) – It’s the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, as Wednesday marks the summer solstice.

And that means Austin Energy is making the most of it, completing a big, new solar project just in time.

There is a new 105-kilowatt solar system on the roof of the George Washington Carver Museum and Library in East Austin. State Energy Conservation officials granted $363,000 for this project, with a $100,000 match from Austin Energy.

“It’s a really neat array,” said Paul Martinez, Austin Energy municipal solar project manager.

With the solar system pumping out 14 percent of the museum’s energy consumption for the year, Martinez said it will save the museum almost $14,000 in electricity costs.

It’s also the largest library installation in Austin and one of the largest of the city of Austin’s municipal installations.

“The Library is thrilled to be able to help educate the community regarding the importance of harvesting natural resources. Solar energy production via near-real-time data will be displayed on a dashboard in the Carver Branch so that children and community members can learn about how solar power works,” said Brenda Branch, Austin Public Library director.

Austin’s municipal installations include libraries, recreation centers, neighborhood centers and other public facilities.

“The Library is looking forward to designing our next large photovoltaic installation with Austin Energy for the New Central Library,” said Branch. “It is expected to be a solar panel array capable of twice the energy production of the array at the Carver Branch.”

With solar panel rebates and installations since 2004, Austin Energy in 2011 snagged a prestigious national award for its solar innovation and leadership.

At the time of the solar rebate’s inception in Austin, there were only four solar contractor companies in the city. There are now 43, with more than 600 jobs created in the industry.

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, also known as UN-Habitat, selected Austin Energy Green Building as the only U.S. initiative to receive the 2011 Scroll of Honour award. That is considered the most prestigious human settlements award in the world.

The organization selected Austin for being the first municipal green building program in the nation, leading the way in sustainable residential and commercial building practices and providing valuable resource efficiency to Austin.

Commercial rebates for solar improvements are ramping up, something Martinez said is doing really well.

About 3 1/2 years ago, some of the first modules only generated 123 watts. Now, similar modules get 240 watts, with good warranties Martinez added.

Austin Energy has about 7 megawatts of solar power from some 1,750 rooftop systems installed with rebates offered to homeowners and businesses. The rebate is offered to encourage people to instal solar systems, as well as to develop the solar industry in Austin.

Meanwhile, the solar farm in Webberville generates 30 megawatts and powers about 5,000 homes.

The farm’s 127,000 solar panels blanket some 380 acres about 20 miles east of Austin. The panels are designed to rotate with the sun to maximize the energy production.

Austin Energy named 2012 Public Power Utility of the Year

The Solar Electric Power Association handed out the award for solar innovation.

Austin Energy stood out among 290 public power utilities and from among four finalists that included Seattle City Light, Long Island Power Authority and Lakeland Electric.

SEPA cited Austin Energy’s five years of research to establish a “value of solar” to properly price the contribution made by solar to generation requirements, environmental needs and economic development.

Also noted was Austin Energy’s 25-year power purchase that made the construction of a 30-megawatt solar farm in Webberville possible — including renewable energy subscriptions by the City of Austin to power all City-owned buildings with 100 percent green energy.

“Through a number of innovative measures and business actions over the past year, Austin Energy has made substantial and award-worthy advancements in the delivery of clean, affordable solar energy to its customers,” said Julia Hamm, SEPA president and CEO.

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