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$2.5 million solar thermal array up and running at Saint Paul RiverCentre

A massive $2.5 million solar thermal array on the Saint Paul RiverCentre's rooftop is a striking sight, even from blocks away.

The nearly 1,000 kW system, which spreads across more than half a football field-sized area--the largest installation of its kind in the Midwest--was unveiled on March 18, according to Anne Hunt, who works in Mayor Chris Coleman's office.

It's a product of a partnership between the center, city and District Energy, which supplies energy to 80 percent of downtown buildings, she says.

The federal "Solar America Communities" program provided $1 million for the display, and District Energy, which led the initiative, matched it, according to a prepared statement.

The array, which helps form a renewable energy district in St. Paul, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 900,000 pounds annually, according to project information.

The way it works is "District Energy's high-performing collectors generate hot water to be used for space heating and domestic hot water in the Saint Paul RiverCentre," while the surplus will get funneled throughout the network, a prepared statement reads.

The installation will work in conjunction with a 183 MW District Energy system that gets energy from a biomass-fueled combined heat and power plant, it states.     

Jim Ibister, who serves as the RiverCentre's general manager and vice president of facility administration for the Minnesota Wild, says, "It's a good symbol of our commitment to sustainability," which he emphasizes is something that clients and patrons are seeking.

"We knew it would be a benefit to the city and as a model across the country, with market transferability," he says. "It's in line with our goal to reduce our carbon footprint."  

The project is one of 10 solar projects that will run along the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line, thanks in part to the $1.5 million the city received in federal stimulus funds from the Minnesota Office of Energy Security.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who attended the unveiling, says in a prepared statement, "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."  

Source: Jim Ibister, vice president of facility administration for the Minnesota Wild and general manager of Saint Paul RiverCentre, Anne Hunt, St. Paul Mayor's office 
Writer: Anna Pratt

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