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Green Building News

Apartment Owner Makes Unusually Big Push for Solar

A Minnesota partnership has concluded that the time is right to invest $1.6 million in PV systems

A 148 kW photovoltaic (PV) array at this apartment building in Eagan, Minnesota, is part of an investment in renewable energy that will provide enough power for 140 apartments owned by the same company.
Image Credit: Innovative Power Systems

At Home Apartments is betting that the timing is right for a major investment in photovoltaic (PV) systems for buildings it owns in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. A 148-kilowatt PV array was recently installed at one of those buildings, the CityVue Apartments in Eagan.

The solar panels, installed by Innovative Power Systems, cover the roof of a parking lot next to the 11-story, 113-unit building, Midwestern Energy News reports. They PV panels part of an expansive renewable energy plan calling for the investment of $1.6 million for 526 kW of solar electric capacity this year alone.

“We thought we could make a meaningful contribution so that when we add (solar) to our marketing platform it’s not just paying lip service to being green,” said Alan Spaulding, a partner in At Home Apartments. “Additionally, in my view, there’s a perfect storm. The cost per kilowatt has come down. There are good public subsidies for it.”

In fact, Spaulding adds, there’s really no downside to adding solar. Interest rates are low (in the mid-3% range), and the solar arrays increase the value of the properties while lowering operating costs.

Eric Pasi of Innovative Power Systems said that his firm has installed solar panels for a handful of other apartment owners, but the practice isn’t common.

“You don’t see a ton of multifamily buildings doing solar,” he said. “They [At Home Apartments] are doing more than what we’re seeing from other apartment complex owners.”

Apartment building roofs aren’t big enough to accommodate arrays much larger than 40 kW, Spaulding said. Garage roofs, with an absence of obstructions such as plumbing stacks and AC equipment, can handle much larger installations.

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