Monday, March 17, 2008

Solar Powered Convention Center

Let's run some numbers. The basic plan.

The simple idea that gave us stickers and budget floor tiles will help power the Phoenix Convention Center.

In early April, crews will install peel-and-stick solar panels on roughly a third of the West Building's 2-acre roof.

Capital cost

The $850,000 project will be the biggest solar-panel installation on a downtown building, and it's the first time this type of solar-energy technology has been used by Phoenix, APS officials say.

Cost savings

In general, conventional electricity usually costs about 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, and electricity generated by solar power costs about 20 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, said Arizona State University solar-power expert Govindasamy "Mani" Tamizh-Mani.

When crews roll out 732 solar panels on the roof, it should provide 150,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, said Mark Holohan, president of Code Electric, the company doing the installation.

Payback - At 10 cents a kwhr, the power produced is worth $15,000 a year. That's a 1.7% return on an $850,000 investment. That also assumes that there aren't any maintenance costs and that the city doesn't have to borrow the money. As soon as you do any maintenance or borrow the capital, the return goes negative.

Solar power isn't going anywhere if it can't even break even.

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