Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Park Board completes solar installations

The installation of solar photovoltaic panels at 13 Cincinnati Park Board sites is now complete, making it the owner of the largest number of solar-powered structures in Ohio.

Approval from the State of Ohio Energy Auditor was received on February 10, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy came to tour the sites last Thursday.

The approximately $1.5 million project was funded by a $451,418 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 grant, two state grants totaling $216,000, a private grant of $100,000, Park Board capital funds, and Forestry funds.

Upon completion of an additional solar array on the awning of Cincinnati Riverfront Park's Bike, Mobility and Visitors Center this summer, the Park Board will be producing over 200 kilowatts of solar energy, saving at least $30,000 in annual energy costs.

Prior to applying for the grant, the Park Board worked with Duke Energy to change its rate structure to allow savings based on the electrical production of the solar installations. The new "direct consumption" structure is proportionally related to the actual kilowatt hour and reflects the solar energy production directly.

Duke Energy also offered a discounted rate for every facility where solar energy is produced and has agreed to purchase the renewable energy certificates (RECs) generated by the Park Board on its installations.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved 10 of the Park Board sites as electrical generation sites, allowing them to sell the RECs. Approval of the remaining three sites is expected next month.

The project is one of nearly three dozen green initiatives being undertaken by the Park Board. Other eco-friendly improvements include solar-powered BigBelly Solar trash cans, a renewable energy system at its Administration Building, rain gardens, and the use of hybrid vehicles and biofuels.

The project won a First Place Green Award of Excellence from the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association last month.

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