More than 60 solar panels are up and running at Ramsey County’s The Ponds at Battle Creek Golf Course, the latest step by the county to power its entire park system with renewable energy.
The photovoltaic panels, which will produce enough energy to power the Maplewood golf course and its clubhouse, were built and installed at no cost to the county. Instead, Ramsey County will pay the vendor, iDeal Energy, for the first 12 years of power generated at the site. After 12 years, the county will own the panels and the power generated outright.
The county will still see immediate savings, because the energy costs of the panels will be less than what the county is currently paying Xcel Energy, said Ryan Ries, project manager for the Parks and Recreation Department.
“It’s still a win for us,” he said.
The panels are expected to save the county more than $240,000 in energy costs over 40 years. They will cut about 119,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year, said Parks Director Mark McCabe — the equivalent, he added, of 6,000 gallons of gasoline.
The county recently installed 124 solar panels on top of the Parks Department’s administration building in Maplewood. The panels, while not quite enough to cover all energy needs of the building, offset most of the costs.
The panels at the golf course and the administration building will give the county real-time data on the savings, costs, challenges and benefits of using solar power, McCabe said.
“These are basically two pilot programs that will give us the data we need for a much bigger push,” he said.
Ramsey County’s goal is to have all nine county parks entirely powered by renewable energy within the next seven years.
Some of the parks, including Lake Owasso County Park in Shoreview, will be retrofitted with solar panels in the near future. All future parks will be built to produce at least as much energy on site as they consume.
The county’s biggest challenge will be cutting the amount of energy sucked up at its 11 ice arenas.
Ice rinks are one of the county’s biggest energy users, accounting for about 85 percent of the energy costs of the entire Parks Department.
County officials want to cut 35 percent of energy use at the arenas. The county is methodically renovating each of the buildings to install LED lights and more efficient heating and cooling systems.
The county also has to switch out the refrigeration system beneath each sheet of ice because the ozone-depleting gas R-22, which the county is currently using, will be banned from production by 2020. A switch will be made to a more environmentally friendly ammonia-based coolant, Ries said.