MINNEAPOLIS - The switch was flipped this week on the first phase of what will soon be the largest solar farm in the state of Minnesota. Just don't drive to the country looking for it.
The 2,613 solar panels -- covering the equivalent of two-and-a-half football fields -- are being installed on the roof of the Minneapolis Convention Center.
"This is real estate that has not been in use and we want to capitalize on that," said Mario Monesterio, an engineer with Westwood Professional Services, the Eden Prairie company providing the project's design and engineering work.
Much of the $3 million dollar projects is being funded by Xcel Energy's Renewable Development Fund, which invests in alternative energy sources.
"The price point of solar has dropped over 40 percent in the last three years and really the only thing holding the industry back is making that price point continue to drop," said Nathan Franzen, director of solar development for Westwood.
When completed next month, the photovoltaic solar panels will provide five percent of the electricity needed to run the 1.5 million-square-foot convention center. That may not sound like much, but Franzen says the 600 kilowatt system will be producing enough power to run the equivalent of 85 homes, "so it's a substantial amount of power that we're producing."
Further, marketers at the convention center are already working on plans to use their new rooftop solar system as a tool to attract the business of environmentally conscious organizations. "It is a draw for groups that have those kinds of goals," said Kristen Montag, the convention center's marketing communications manager. She says roof top tours of the solar panels are another possibility being considered.
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