While the sun has been doing its level best to hide these past few weeks, efforts to harness its power were on display just before Christmas at the Oregon Ice Arena.
Full Spectrum Solar put the finishing touches on a 193 kW photovoltaic system on the roof of the arena just before the New Year, hooking up a system with enough juice to cut about a quarter of the arena’s energy costs, manager Ben Cowan estimated.
“The idea to help the environment and go green is obviously front of everyone’s mind these days,” Cowan told the Observer. “Anything we can do to offset our energy costs is a bonus.”
The ice arena had been working with Full Spectrum for a couple years to figure out how to finance the project, Cowan said, before a private benefactor stepped in to foot the bill, which he estimated at around $350,000.
Cowan said the person preferred to remain anonymous, describing a philanthropist who “had some tax credits he needed to get rid of.”
Those tax credits have turned into 560 modules on the roof of the arena, each with an individual collector panel anchored to a racking structure for the wiring to pass through on its way to current inverters. Each panel is 6.5 feet by 3.25 feet, Full Spectrum Solar owner Burke O’Neal told the Observer.
The system’s capacity, 193 kW, is the amount of power the panels can put out when the sun is directly overhead, Burke explained.
“Imagine 1,930 100-watt lightbulbs,” O’Neal added.
O’Neal, who was also the project manager and engineer, said his firm designed the system to avoid creating excess electricity. The ice arena’s roof is large enough to accomodate a system that could create 100 percent of the yearly usage, but it would result in excess power that would be sold back to the utility for a low cost.
“We sized it that way so when the system’s performing at full power, most or all of the power is being used as its created,” O’Neal said.
The system doesn’t have batteries, and O’Neal said his goal is that 90 percent of the time solar energy is available, it will be used. He pointed out an ice arena has to keep the ice frozen and the air above it warm, but “on the positive side, there’s a very large roof to offset that.”
The install didn’t really affect day-to-day operations, Cowan said, recalling the crew having to turn off the electricity “maybe once.”
The racking and wiring should last the life of the building, O’Neal said, and the modules have a guarantee to have at least 80 percent of their power output in Year 25 of service.
“A commercial system might be in positive cash flow in 6-7 years and you’re probably going to get 30 years out of an install,” O’Neal estimated.
Full Spectrum Solar has done several projects in Oregon, and O’Neal estimated the firm probably has 300-400 kW installed across various school district buildings.