Solar energy for powering light rail trains will expand

Solar array on the Spruce Tree Center in St. Paul
This 37-kilowatt solar array on the Spruce Tree Center at University and Snelling avenues in St. Paul was installed in 2010. Innovative Power Systems will install similar arrays on four more commercial buildings along the light rail corridor next year.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News

More solar energy is coming to the University Avenue light rail corridor in St. Paul.

Next year, Innovative Power Systems will install solar panels on four commercial building rooftops in the area, thanks to a $1.9 million grant from Xcel Energy.

The trains use a lot of electricity. But once the new panels are installed, solar power will make up 17 percent of the light rail's annual electricity use.

Ralph Jacobson, CEO of Innovative Power Systems, said the project is an "excellent opportunity" to show the power of solar.

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"It's a large load, it's in the middle of the city, there's no expectation of another power plant or power line to bring that power in," he said.

If financing were available, Jacobson said, there's enough rooftop space within three blocks of the light rail line to produce up to 100 megawatts of electricity.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said renewable energy projects in cities are key to bringing down the emissions causing climate change.

"This is a great project," he said. "It's the kind of innovation that we need to really achieve the goals that were set in Paris just this last week. It's critical that cities lead and cities lead with their partners."