Roseville leaders will flip a switch Monday to energize more than 200 new solar panels mounted on City Hall and the fire station.
The rooftop solar arrays, invisible to passersby, are expected to lower the city's utility bills and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by much as 55 tons a year.
"We have the ability through our size and organization to do something that can have an impact. It makes sense for us to be a leader in this area," said Roseville Mayor Dan Roe.
Roe said the city also has invested in an off-site solar garden, switched City Hall over to LED lighting and invested in energy-saving technology at the Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval, the city's ice rink.
Roseville city staffers spent years researching green-energy options before entering into a partnership with iDeal Energies. The Minneapolis-based company, which began in 2010, has installed solar arrays for more than two dozen Minnesota cities, counties and school districts.
The Twin Cities is a sweet spot for solar, said Chris Psihos, iDeal Energies' president and CEO.
"We are actually in an excellent place to do solar. We have about 200 sunny days a year," Psihos said. "We have cooler weather in the spring and fall. The equipment performs better in those temperatures."
As to solar naysayers, Psihos said: "In today's world, solar is incredibly reliable. The trick is to use the right parts and products."
Roseville paid nothing up front for the solar arrays; iDeal installed the solar arrays and will operate and maintain them for up to 20 years, with early termination options.
In exchange, the city pays the company for the solar energy it uses and what it saves on its utility bill. At the end of the lease, Roseville will take full control of the solar arrays and receive the full economic benefit of the power they produce.
The city will save around $2,000 a year on its annual electric bill of about $102,000 for the firehouse and City Hall, Roseville Public Works Director Marc Culver said.
Culver anticipates the city will utilize the early termination clause to take full control of the panels in about 13 years. After that, the city could save at least $16,000 per year, he said.
About 6% of the electricity at Roseville City Hall, and 13% of that at the fire station, will be powered by solar energy.
Later this summer, Roseville and iDeal expect to install 339 additional solar panels on the maintenance facility roof. City officials plan to create an online public dashboard so residents can see how much power the panels are generating.
Culver said city officials originally toyed with the idea of installing the panels in a more conspicuous location, to set a good example. But given the additional insurance costs of a ground-based system, and the parklike setting of the City Hall complex, they decided to tuck them up on the roof.
Psihos said iDeal Energies leverages federal and state tax incentives and utility-bill savings to make solar affordable for public sector entities, and he hopes to double its number of public clients this year. The company also has installed more than 300 solar arrays for commercial customers.
"We keep it super simple and do everything behind the scenes," Psihos said.