"Salem Conference center to get solar panels"
City OKs system, which will provide some of site's power. The 1,280 solar panels scheduled to be mounted on the roof of the center will aid in the center's marketability in addition to increasing efficiency and reducing energy costs, said Rick Scott, the director of Salem's Urban Development Department.
The city of Salem plans to install a 263-kilowatt system of solar panels on the roof of Salem Conference Center. (Timothy J. Gonzalez | Statesman Journal file)
By Thelma Guerrero-Huston • Statesman Journal • April 13, 2010
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The bids are in, and the savings at Salem Conference Center are expected to begin early next year.
The 1,280 solar panels scheduled to be mounted on the roof of the center will aid in the center's marketability in addition to increasing efficiency and reducing energy costs, said Rick Scott, the director of Salem's Urban Development Department.
The 263-kilowatt solar panel system to be installed at the conference center will generate 20 percent to 30 percent of the electricity it currently takes to operate the conference center, Scott said.
Scott did not immediately have access to the exact amount of electricity the center presently uses, but he estimated the electrical output of the new system to be 1.41 million kilowatts per year, or 117,500 kilo-watts per month.
"Another plus is that it will put people to work locally," Scott said.
Calls to the vendor inquiring about the number of jobs that would be created were not returned.
Information from the city about the cost and savings was unclear.
The solar project was given a thumbs up Monday by Salem City Council.
"I think it's a great idea," said City Councilor Laura Tesler, whose ward encompasses the conference center. "I think it's a good use of space at the top of the building. They could grow things up there."
Mayor Taylor called the system a "win" for everybody.
"I think this is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the viability of solar panels," she said, "and also save money for the city for electrical costs for the center."
The decision authorizes the department's executive director, Linda Norris, to enter into an agreement with Sustainable Investment Inc. for the installation of a solar photovoltaic system at the center.
Norris also was given the authority to negotiate and enter into a power purchase agreement with the group.
After considering its options, the city elected to go with a 25-year agreement that leaves the door open for it to buy the system after six years, if it so chooses.
The deal calls for Sustainable Investment to bear the costs of the installation and maintenance of the system.
There's nothing in city rules that would prohibit the vendor from purchasing the solar panels from Sanyo Solar, Norris said.
In 2009, the city began the process of developing a solar panel system at Salem Conference Center as a pilot project.
The point was to demonstrate support for the solar industry. But the small project resulted in stratospheric costs, prompting city officials to kill the project.
The proposal from Sustainable Investment was for a larger project than the city planned, which meant lower overall costs. In addition to cost savings, the project is anticipated to earn the city a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
LEED Certification is considered the rating standard by which green-building advocates measure commitment to the "green" cause.
"I'm confident that with the other energy saving strategies that we've put into the conference center, along with the solar panels, we should have no problem in meeting our certification," Scott said. "This will be the largest solar array installation currently in the city of Salem."