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Feds set to open Indianapolis solar power project

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The federal government is preparing to throw the switch on six acres of solar panels atop a mammoth office building that’s set to boast Indiana’s largest solar power project.

On April 29, an array of 6,152 solar panels on the roof of the Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Federal Center in Indianapolis will begin generating more than 2 megawatts of electricity an hour. That’s enough to power about 1,000 homes.

The project paid for by $35 million in federal stimulus funding will save about $475,000 a year, or 20 percent, on the Bean Center’s utility bills, said Dave Wilkinson, a spokesman for the General Services Administration.

The GAO owns the 1950s-era office building at a former U.S. Army base on Indianapolis’ northeast side, where workers process the payroll for the U.S. military services and other defense finance and accounting units.

Energy experts tell The Indianapolis Star that the 1 million square-foot building’s solar panels are thought to be the largest installation of its type in Indiana. They’re also a visible sign of President Barack Obama’s renewed call for the nation to embrace solar, wind, biomass and other renewable forms of power.

Because it’s such a high-profile project, it’s creating strong interest in central Indiana in the renewable energy source. The project, like others elsewhere, are benefiting from federal tax breaks and heavy federal subsidies for solar power.

Government incentives available this year can subsidize up to 60 percent of the investment in new solar power arrays.

“The tax advantages through 2011 and the investment tax credits ... it all makes these projects more feasible,” said John Haselden, principal engineer for Indianapolis Power & Light Co.

IPL has received about 25 proposals from investors, developers, not-for-profit organizations and others eager to take advantage of the incentives to create arrays much larger than the one at the Bean Center.

The solar array will be connected to an IPL substation nearby, so if the building doesn’t use all the power, some of it can be routed onto the electric company’s regional grid, Haselden said. But in reality, the building is a hog for power, so there might not be any leftovers.

Wilkinson said the solar array won’t meet all the building’s power needs, but it will create significant savings and is a valuable investment in technology development.

In addition to generating electricity, four banks of solar panels installed on the roof will catch the heat of the sun to make hot water for the building’s restrooms. Water will be delivered to the tap at 120 degrees.

And about 1,000 square feet on the southeast corner of the Bean center’ roof has been set aside for a solar laboratory, said Brad Dwelle, senior project manager for Shiel Sexton, general contractor on the project.

Engineers say the array will be capable of generating 2.01 megawatts of electricity per hour on peak sunny days. In Indiana, solar panels are expected to deliver electricity at least 20 percent of the time.

While the 6 acres of solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Bean Center seems large now, it might not be the largest in Indiana for very long.

The Indianapolis Airport Authority is expected to issue an invitation next week for solar power developers to offer proposals for a 30-acre array producing up to 10 megawatts of electricity.

 

Posted 4/11/2011

 

 

 

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