The City of Orlando is trying out a new program for solar panels which they hope will save them almost a million dollars with a very minimal investment. For the past three years, cities and counties have been using stimulus grants to buy millions of dollars worth of solar panels and photovoltaic equipment for green energy.
The city will fill the roof of its Fleet Maintenance Facility with solar panels, but this time, a private company will spend the $2.5 million it will take to equip the building. Orlando Sustainability Director John Ippel says the Fleet Maintenance building is the perfect place to begin the program.
"It's flat and large, so we can pack more solar panels up there than if it were pitched or, you know, had more mechanical equipment or things of that sort."
The private company will invest the $2.5 million for the panels and the city will chip in only $300,000 in a combination of stimulus grants and waiving permitting fees.
"They clearly profit, because they wouldn't do it otherwise. They're not doing it for a benevolent purpose, and then of course, we're projecting to save about $800,000 over the course of 25 years, so clearly we're saving as well."
As energy prices rise over the next 25 years, the city will pay the same rate it is paying today for the solar energy generated on the roof.
"This probably will take about 50 percent of the energy required at that location."
Ippel believes, eventually, the solar power can be enough for the entire facility, and that solar power will be a big part of the city's future.
"We have to be honest that all energy sources have some sort of tax credit, whether it be oil, coal, anything else," said Ippel, "but because of the rapid decrease in the cost of solar, we think it will cost competitive with your normal retail residential rate in probably 2 years or less."
If the pilot program works, Orlando hopes to expand the solar program to other city buildings.