The Minnesota Department of Transportation has teamed up with a renewable energy cooperative to build a community solar garden on the top level of the Ramp A parking garage in downtown Minneapolis, the first such project to be built on MnDOT right of way.
In the spring, Minneapolis-based Cooperative Energy Futures (CEF) will install a canopy of more than 3,750 panels on the seventh level of the sprawling ramp that sits over Interstate 394 between 7th and 10th Streets near Target Center and Target Field, MnDOT officials announced Monday.
No parking spaces will be lost.
MnDOT owns the parking deck and the space above it. The agency signed a 25-year lease that calls for CEF to pay the agency $5,000 a year for rights to the airspace. Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle called the arrangement a model of cooperation between government and business.
"This is an incredible and important and unique project here on the top of Ramp A," Zelle said during a news conference. "One of MnDOT's visions is not just moving cars fast, but taking care of the health of the people of the state."
MnDOT once considered allowing a golf facility to be built on the ramp's roof. But with this, "We are on the right step" to reducing MnDOT's carbon footprint, Zelle said.
The solar garden advances Gov. Mark Dayton's order for state agencies to support renewable energy, officials said.
The 40- by 80-inch panels will produce enough electricity to supply 150 to 180 households, said Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, CEF's general manager.
Residents of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and neighboring counties who are Xcel Energy customers can pay for a subscription that will allow them to be members of the garden. In return, subscribers will receive credits on their electricity bills. In most cases, credits will cover a subscriber's electricity costs, DenHerder-Thomas said.
As owner of the ramp, MnDOT will have the opportunity to hold up to 20 percent of subscriptions and earn energy credits, said MnDOT spokeswoman Sue Roe.
The addition of the solar garden comes as transportation policymakers are exploring ways to transform the ABC Ramps into "mobility hubs" that would entice more people to stop driving alone by offering other modes of transportation, such as shared cars, bicycles and electric scooters.