Solar Garden Atop A Parking Structure, Dream or Realty?

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation has teamed up with a renewable energy cooperative to build a community solar garden on the top level of the Ramp A parking garage in downtown Minneapolis, the first such project to be built on MnDOT right of way.

In the spring, Minneapolis-based Cooperative Energy Futures (CEF) will install a canopy of more than 3,750 panels on the seventh level of the sprawling ramp that sits over Interstate 394.  For those not concerned about renewable energy, no fear,  no parking spaces will be lost.

MnDOT owns the parking deck and the space above it. The agency signed a 25-year lease that calls for CEF to pay the agency $5,000 a year for rights to the airspace. Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle called the arrangement a model of cooperation between government and business.

MnDOT once considered allowing a golf facility to be built on the ramp’s roof. But with this, “We are on the right step” to reducing MnDOT’s carbon footprint, Zelle said.

The solar garden advances Gov. Mark Dayton’s order for state agencies to support renewable energy, officials said.

The 40- by 80-inch panels will produce enough electricity to supply 150 to 180 households, said Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, CEF’s general manager.

Residents of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and neighboring counties who are Xcel Energy customers can pay for a subscription that will allow them to be members of the garden. In return, subscribers will receive credits on their electricity bills. In most cases, credits will cover a subscriber’s electricity costs.

source:  Star Tribune