Plymouth Creek Center Expansion to Include Additional Solar Panels
The Plymouth City Council has approved additional solar panels to be installed for the Plymouth Creek Center expansion project. It would provide an additional 80 kilowatts of solar power, doubling the total output to 160 kilowatts. The extra cost is $262,900. The solar panel approval came on a 4-3 vote at Plymouth’s Sept. 22 council meeting.
The overall project, which the city council approved in June, includes expanding the total square footage of the building from 30,000 to more than 111,000. Once reconstructed, the building will have three wings. One portion of the building will be for events and include ballroom and meeting room space. Another wing is for education that includes space for arts, music and community learning. The third area is the gym, walking track, fitness rooms and indoor playground. Construction is underway.
Solar Panels Expected to Produce Energy Savings
The overall project approved in June included solar panels producing 80 kilowatts of energy. According to city officials that met standards for a state renewable energy program that provides incentives for new public buildings to have at least 2% of its energy needs to come from solar, wind or another sustainable energy source.
With the additional panels, doubling the total output to 160 kilowatts, the building would have 4% of its energy needs met by renewable energy. The city expects to save $30,000 to $38,000 annually in energy costs. Plymouth officials expect to fully recoup the costs of the panel installation in 15 to 20 years. The estimated lifespan of the solar panels is 30 years. The panels would be installed on the roof of the gymnasium and would not impact the aesthetics of the building design, said Diane Evans, director of Plymouth’s parks and recreation.
“They’re very well hidden from view,” said Evans, noting the panels will be on the back side of the building.
With the additional solar panels, the total project cost is more than $49 million. St. Louis Park-based Sundial Energy will do the solar panel installation.
Range of Opinions on Additional Solar Panels
Council members weighed the extra cost to a project that some members already feel is excessive. Some council members also wondered whether the energy return on investment was sufficient.
“Even with passing this, 96% of the (Plymouth Creek Center) is going to be generated by coal mines,” said Plymouth City Council member Jim Prom, who voted against the additional panels. “As much as we might want to feel good and this is going to save the Earth, I’m sorry, 2-4% really isn’t going to cut.”
Plymouth City Council member Jim Willis disagreed.
“I think anything we can do on the order of the magnitude of this cost in our existing environment and our bids I think is the right approach,” said Willis. “It may not be a turning point in terms of changing the impacts of adverse climate effects, but it’s helping to stir the pot to get things moving.”
Three residents also called into the virtual meeting offering support for the project. The callers felt it’s important that Plymouth act like a leader and do its part on the climate change issue.
Plymouth City Council member Nick Roehl, who voted no, thought a piecemeal approach would be better instead of doing everything at once. Roehl says technology is constantly getting better and the additional panels will soon be outdated.
Council member Alise McGregor, the third no vote, made it clear she supports solar panels, but didn’t want to add to the budget that’s already approved.