Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Mound solar panels to test sun’s power

Miamisburg project fits well with the mission
of the area to help forge new energy economy.
By Steve Bennish, Staff Writer 11:17 PM Monday, March 15, 2010
DAYTON — Dayton Power & Light’s second solar power array under construction will use 300 ground-mounted panels on a southern-facing hill at the Mound Advanced Technology Center in Miamisburg.
The project fits well with the mission of the manufacturing and research cradle that once housed a Department of Energy weapons site.
Firms there are involved in advanced energy technologies, said Mike Grauwelman, president of the not-for-profit Mound Community Improvement Corp.
Work under way at the Mound shows promise at helping forge a new energy economy, Grauwelman said. The area already has leadership in materials technology that could spawn new manufacturing and boost employment in the field of renewable energy.
“It’s time to reinvent ourselves and take advantage of what is here,” Grauwelman said.
The Mound has 550,000 square feet of space. About 200,000 square feet are occupied, Grauwelman said.
The project is at a good location too, DP&L said, because it does not require much clearing or preparation and easily can tie to the electric grid. The hillside is at a good angle to the sun that will get strong solar exposure, and is not valuable real estate for buildings.
The panels are a different kind than those being set up at the utility’s Yankee substation in Washington Twp., where a 1.1 megawatt installation should be online by April. The Mound panels are made of crystalline silicon and rated at 200 watts each, taking up less space for the power generated. The Yankee panels, all 9,000 of them, will be amorphous silicon and generate 125 watts each.
State legislation gave DP&L a choice of purchasing what are known as “renewable energy credits” or RECs, on an open market to meet requirements. However, it couldn’t meet all its solar requirements that way in part because of the state’s lagging development of solar installations.
“To meet the 2011 requirements, it is too far in the future to say if it would be less expensive for (DP&L) to purchase solar RECs,” the utility said, than to expand the Yankee or Mound solar arrays.
DP&L said that according to the Edison Electric Institute, building a solar array costs one and a half times as much as a new coal plant.
For example, a solar photo voltaic project would cost $5,000 per kilowatt and coal costs $3,000 per kilowatt. However, solar power costs continue to decline, the source is renewable, sunlight is strong during summer air-conditioning power peaks and solar energy does not pollute, DP&L said.
The Yankee installation is expected to be online by April and the Mound project by summer. There’s room at Yankee to expand, DP&L said.