Will Kessler of Portland-based Renewable Energy Development Associates is pitching the city a proposal in which neighborhood-scale solar panels are installed in various places as “working works of art.”
Going a little bit further, the gist of the plan is this:
Kessler’s firm is seeking the city’s permission to install and maintain a series of approximately 20-foot-tall (when tilted in their tallest configuration) solar panels on public property. Because REDA is an LLC and the city is a nonprofit organization, the company qualifies for a range of federal renewable energy incentives the city does not, and would therefore retain ownership of the fixtures for at least six years to maximize access to those incentives.
After six years or so, REDA would sell the panels to the city “at fair market value, with the goal of operating the installation at as close as possible to net revenue neutrality.”
“The economics and natural resources of the Forest City favor solar: on average, customers pay the 11th highest electricity rates in the country, while the Maine coast receives the same amount of sunlight per year as southern Texas or southern Spain,” Kessler writes in his proposal. “The concept proposal herein combines an active stance on solar photovoltaic generation, with Portland’s urban landscape, and traditions of self-reliance.”
He adds: “Once professionally erected, a solar PV array can generate 40-50 years of electricity from sunlight, at zero marginal cost, and zero carbon footprint.”
REDA proposes using solar panels built by Vermont-based AllEarth Renewables, which have been developed to automatically track the sun’s movement to maximize absorption of rays, as well as “withstand hard winters, heavy winds, and extreme cold.”
Kessler said each of the 24-panel solar trackers could be financed at a cost of between $30,000 and $40,000, and the city would buy the cleaner energy from REDA at an agreed-upon rate over that sixish-year initial ownership period.
(The city currently uses 30-million-plus kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, so the proposed solar arrangements wouldn’t come close to becoming the city’s sole or even primary power provider, but would offset a portion of that usage.)
The idea fits right in with Portland’s ethos, a progressive city that takes both public art and environmental friendliness seriously.
Kessler’s written proposal goes so far as to include five suggestions for optimal places to locate the equipment, and here’s where we get to the stuff I promised in the headline.
The following five images — and the associated descriptions — are pulled right out of Kessler’s proposal, illustrating how Portland would look if decorated by solar panels: