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Salt Palace solar array paying off before it's built

Published September 1, 2010 9:03 pm

Home-building group picks Utah as site of 2011 green convention.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Salt Palace solar array that would outshine any other rooftop grid in the nation is brightening the Beehive State's bottom line — even before the first panel is in place.

Although the installation is months away, word of it helped Salt Lake County win a National Association of Home Builders convention.

Scott Beck, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, announced Wednesday the association picked Utah for its 2011 green building conference after learning of plans to place more than 11,000 solar panels on the roof of the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.

That convention, he said, will draw an estimated 4,000 visitors and elevate Utah's desirability for other green gatherings.

"Now the spigot is going to start opening, and we are going to get more and more of these conventions," Beck said. "This particular industry — whether it is wind energy or alternative energy — is big business, which means big conventions."

The news came on the sunny southeast corner of the Salt Palace, where County Mayor Peter Corroon unveiled plans for an expansive solar array that will surpass any existing rooftop installation in the nation.

The system will produce more than 2.6 megawatts of energy — enough to steal the spotlight from a 2.4-megawatt installation atop a New Jersey FedEx building that solar experts now recognize as the country's largest.

"It is a big step," Corroon said, "toward a better environment, cleaner air, a more sustainable and robust economy and true energy security, which our nation desperately needs."

His comments came under a cloudless blue sky. County officials distributed sunglasses in a wicker basket.

"This is a beautiful day," remarked Rocky Mountain Power President Richard Walje, "and a beautiful day for generating solar energy. It is an omen of things to come."

Although the solar installation is the county's brainchild, it won't be government-owned. Instead, a team of clean-energy companies will create the array and sell the power to the county at a fixed rate.

A company known as Bella Energy will build the system. And a second one, NexGen Energy, will own and operate it.

The first solar panels are expected to arrive on the Salt Palace roof in November or December. The system eventually will cover 600,000 square feet of the convention center roof — enough to fill more than six football fields.

The Salt Palace plans to use star power to satisfy a quarter of its annual energy needs. That translates into enough electricity to power 261 homes.

"It will prove ... that large rooftops can successfully provide power from the sun," said Ted Rose, vice president of business development and public affairs for NexGen, to the benefit of "both the environment and the bottom line."

jstettler@sltrib.com —

Solar array, by the numbers

It will produce about 2.6 megawatts of solar energy, reportedly making it the nation's largest rooftop array.

It will generate enough electricity to power 261 homes.

It will span 600,000 square feet, about the size of six football fields.

It will provide about a quarter of the Salt Palace's annual energy.

It will give the county a cleaner power source, avoiding 4.7 million pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions (equivalent to burning 242,350 fewer gallons of gasoline a year).

It will start producing power in mid-January.






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