Bean Federal Center 6-acre solar energy project will be Indiana’s biggest yet April 6, 2011Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: General Services Administration (GSA) solar project, Indiana Solar Farm, Indianapolis Airport Authority solar proposal, Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Federal Center solar installation
Workers cover an expansion joint in the roof of the Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Federal Center in Lawrence, where a new array of 6,152 solar panels will be switched on April 29. The $35 million project is thought to be the largest installation of its type in the state, energy experts say. / Alan Petersime / The Star
Written by Bruce C. Smith
The power of the sun will be harnessed later this month to produce solar electricity on a size and scale never before seen in Indiana.
Starting April 29, an array of 6,152 solar panels, installed last winter on the roof of a federal office building, will create more than 2 megawatts of electricity an hour, enough to power about 1,000 homes.
The $35 million solar array atop the mammoth Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Federal Center in Lawrence is thought to be the largest installation of its type in the state, energy experts say. And it is a visible sign of President Barack Obama’s renewed call for national independence from imported oil by developing solar, wind, biomass and other renewable forms of power.
Such a high-profile project — combined with federal tax breaks and heavy federal subsidies for the creation of solar power — is creating intense interest in the renewable energy source in Central Indiana. 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.
IPL declined to name the interested parties. Their proposals are for the construction of photovoltaic arrays on a commercial scale far more powerful than the single panels seen on many residential roofs to heat water or light a few bulbs.
Federal economic stimulus funds paid for the solar array at the Bean Center.
Officials of the General Services Administration, the agency that owns the 1950s-era office building at 56th Street and Post Road, said the solar array won’t meet all the building’s power needs. But it will create significant savings, and it is a valuable investment in technology development, officials said.
It’s also a valuable showplace for the benefits of solar energy, said John Andrews of Shiel Sexton, general contractor on the project. The installation, combined with federal incentives, has “provided a catalyst for municipal, corporate and investment buyers (of solar power) to feel and touch it,” he said.
The federal government will save about $475,000 a year, or 20 percent, on the utility bills in the Bean Center, according to GSA spokesman Dave Wilkinson.
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.
About 1,000 square feet on the southeast corner of the roof has been set aside for a solar laboratory, said Brad Dwelle, senior project manager for Shiel Sexton. Four experimental types of solar collecting panels — some no thicker than a carpet — have been installed to see how well they will work in Indiana weather.
A mini weather station will measure and collect temperature, sunshine and other data to help analyze the results of the test technology, he said.
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, he said. But in reality, the building is a hog for power, so there might not be any leftovers.
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.
The Bean Center consumes 3 megawatts an hour at night when its 5,000 workers go home.
And while the 6 acres of solar collecting 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.
Call Star reporter Bruce C. Smith at (317) 444-6081.