Chicago, Los Angeles initiate solar projects

With the price of conventionally-produced electricity growing more volatile and the pressure on to reduce pollution, renewable energy is generating renewed US attention. Solar projects are under way in Chicago and Los Angeles, and American Electric Power Co. is setting up a new renewable energy assessment unit.


With the price of conventionally-produced electricity growing more volatile and the pressure on to reduce pollution, renewable energy is generating renewed US attention. Solar projects are under way in Los Angeles and Chicago, and American Electric Power Co., Columbus, Ohio, is setting up a renewable energy assessment unit.

AEP said the unit will review technical feasibility and commercial viability of emerging renewable energy technologies, including solar, wind, biomass, and landfill gas, as well as distributed generation. The US Department of Energy is projecting biomass, landfill gas, geothermal, and wind power will account for the lion's share of renewable energy, followed by solar thermal and photovoltaics.

In one of the largest US solar installations to date, the municipally owned Los Angeles Deptartment of Water and Power (LADWP) has begun the first phase of a 4-year, $38 million solar program. Solar panels initially will be installed on the Los Angeles Convention Center under a $6 million contract with AstroPower Inc., Newark, NJ.

When completed in the fall of 2000, the building will be the largest solar-powered building in North America, according to LADWP. The panels, many of which will also serve as cover for parking spaces, will provide peak electricity to the center. Others will be installed on various municipal buildings, including libraries and community buildings, LADWP said.

Public benefits
LADWP Director of Strategic Planning Angelina Galiteva called the installation a "new chapter" in the municipal utility's program to make solar power widely available in Los Angeles. The solar program is part of the utility's public benefits initiative under California's 1996 electric deregulation law.

The state of Illinois, the city of Chicago, and Unicom Corp. subsidiary Comomwealth Edison Co.(ComEd) are jointly funding a 500-kw photovoltaic (PV) system to be built during the next 3 years on a reclaimed industrial dump and landfill on Chicago's south side.

The 500 kw array will be the first installment of the city's announced 2.5-Mw PV array, which the city says will be the world's largest, covering about 10 acres, when it is completed. ComEd will provide $3 million in funding, with additional site and project funding coming from the state and city. Altogether, ComEd has committed $12 million to the city for PV installations.

Spire Corp., Bedford, Mass., has been contracted to manufacture and install the initial PV system in monthly increments over a 3-year period. One completed, the first 500 kw will generate about 750,000 kw-hr/year of electric power, enough to power 100 homes, and offset more than 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the project's lifetime, Spire said.

ComEd Senior Vice-Pres. Frank Clark said the project demonstrates the use of alternative energy sources, while finding a viable use for a former landfill.

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