Las Vegas to Capture the Sun atop Carports

In a plan that is less surprising than audacious, Las Vegas city fathers plan to place solar panels on top of carports at a number of city-owned and operated facilities.

The $11-million plan, will reportedly cut the city’s electricity costs by about $300,000 a year when completed, and generate enough electricity to supply 170 homes.

The solar panels in question have a life expectancy of between 25 and 40 years (the first figure being closer to the expert’s usual estimates), and the city’s investment of $600,000 from a “green” building fund will reportedly be recaptured in about 15 years.

The rest of the funding – $4,150,000 of Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant funds (EECBG), $1,276,738 from Community Development Block Grant Recovery (CDBG-R, or ARRA) funds, and $5.1 million from New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, as well as utility rebates for renewable energy – makes up the balance.

The project will initially start with three sets of panels mounted across 34 carport stalls and paid for by ARRA funding, and will be located at the new Stupak Community Center at 300 W. Boston Ave. (across the street from the Chester Stupak Park). The center, built in 2008 at a cost of $7.5 million, is nearly complete and contains 34,183 square feet of ESL and general classrooms, an indoor gym/aerobic fitness and weight control center, a kitchen, a library and a game room. Opening is scheduled for this winter.

Two other solar projects, also slated for carport roofs on public buildings, will finish the 950-kilowatt project, which is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the city’s carbon footprint by 949 tons of carbon monoxide (which would have been produced by burning fossil fuels). Stupak Center solar project construction is expected to start in 2010.

The new Stupak Community Center is slated for completion this fall, with an opening proposed for this winter. The solar carport at the center is expected to break ground sometime in 2010.

The panels, funded from the Community Development Block Grant Recovery portion of ARRA, is the first project approved in the region, which includes Nevada, California, Arizona and Hawaii, and will provide between 10 and 30 percent of the center’s power needs, depending on usage.

The panels also provide covered parking, and they, along with solar installations at the wastewater treatment plant, will move the city to 10 percent of renewable power by 2011, which is close to Nevada’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) of 25 percent of energy from renewables by 2025.

Author: Nate Lew

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