The city of St. Paul, Minnesota and its local utility, District Energy, have just taken the wraps off of what they say is the largest solar thermal installation in the Midwest. The Mayor of St. Paul and a handful of other local government officials recently joined District Energy in unveiling a new solar thermal project which was placed atop St. Paul’s River Centre convention center.
The project was made possible through a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) “Solar America Communities” program and matching funds from District Energy St. Paul. The installation involved 144 solar thermal collectors that, when grouped together, covers a space equivalent to half a football field.
The collectors generate hot water, which will be used in the convention center for both heating purposes and general hot water needs. Any surplus energy will get diverted to a hot water distribution network that serves St. Paul. The solar thermal system was engineered in such a way that it can be utilized as an additional energy source for District Energy’s already progressive 183 megawatt system that is powered primarily from a biomass fueled heat and power plant. When completed, the River Centre installation is expected to top out at just under 1,000 kW.
This most recent installation is part of a grander “Integrated Energy Vision” for the city of St. Paul that will use biogas, advanced heat recovery systems, thermal storage systems and renewable energy sources, such as solar, to provide heat and power to commercial, industrial and residential customers in the area. The vision serves the city’s efforts to move away from importing over $16 billion worth of out-of-state coal and oil that is burned to generate energy.
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