Construction of Minnesota’s Largest Solar Energy Project Begins at MSP Airport

Oct 2, 2014

Construction began today on what will soon be Minnesota’s largest solar generation site.  Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport will house a 3-megawatt solar installation on the top deck of two Terminal 1 parking structures. 
This first-of-its-kind airport project also includes converting more than 7,700 metal halide light fixtures in all four parking ramps to energy-saving LED technology.  Four additional electric vehicle charging stations will be installed in the ramps, bringing the total number of MSP charging stations to 18. Work is expected to be complete by Oct. 2015 and will increase Minnesota’s cumulative solar capacity by roughly 20 percent.  It is estimated that, when operating at peak capacity, the installation will generate close to 20 percent of the airport’s total power supply.
“The Metropolitan Airports Commission has worked for decades to operate Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as sustainably as possible, investing millions in infrastructure to reduce impacts to soil, water and air quality, and spending nearly a half-billion dollars on noise mitigation around MSP,” said Jeff Hamiel, the Commission’s executive director and CEO.  “This ambitious new solar energy project will create jobs, reduce the airport’s carbon footprint and save the Airports Commission hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.  I want to thank all the public and private entities who have worked with us to make this project possible.”
The $25.4 million airport solar project was hailed by Governor Mark Dayton as an example of continued progress in Minnesota’s clean energy economy in his release of the first ever Minnesota Clean Energy Economy Profile.  The profile is a report led by the Minnesota State Departments of Commerce and Employment and Economic Development, with support from a committee of industry leaders, under the National Governors Association Policy Academy. The study was conducted by an economic consultant, Collaborative Economics, and was funded by the McKnight Foundation and the Energy Foundation.
“This project will create 250 new jobs, and make our airport one of the most energy-efficient in the world,” said Governor Dayton, who enacted a new solar energy standard requiring utilities to produce 1.5% of their electricity from solar power by 2020. “Minnesota’s nation-leading clean energy policies, and projects like this one, have significantly reduced carbon emissions in our state while helping create thousands of new jobs. Today’s announcement offers more proof that clean energy progress and job creation are complementary objectives.”
The Clean Energy Economy profile shows that Minnesota has a growing clean energy economy that sustains local jobs and attracts investment.  Employment in clean energy sectors reached 15,300 in 2014, and workers in clean energy earn high average wages compared with the state average.
Ameresco, a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy company, has been contracted to lead the airport solar project in partnership with a number of Minnesota-based entities including tenKsolar, Thrivent Financial, Cooper Lighting/Eaton Corporation and Hunt Electric.  Xcel Energy was also a key contributor, with a $2 million grant from their Renewable Development Fund.
“Today, we celebrate a proving ground for renewable innovation in the state of Minnesota—the largest solar site in the state to date,” said George P. Sakellaris, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ameresco. “Ameresco is honored to be a sustainability partner in this innovative project. We applaud the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and its management for its stewardship both in pursuing renewable energy solutions for the airport as well as obtaining public-private financing to support the construction. Ameresco takes pride in contributing to local job creation as part of achieving energy savings and sustainability.”
The Metropolitan Airports Commission hired Minneapolis-based GreenMark in March 2012 to explore the possibility of developing a major solar energy generation facility at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.  GreenMark helped identify potential solar solutions and developers for this project.
"GreenMark is very proud of this innovative partnership that would never have happened without the deep commitment by the MAC and with cooperation from Ameresco,” said GreenMark founder Mark Andrew.   “This is truly a partnership between our organizations with all partners pitching in to make it work. This project is the first major expansion of solar in our state and will lead the way to more solar installations to power our state's future.”
About MSP Airport
Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport is one of seven airports owned and operated by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.  A public corporation of the state of Minnesota, the MAC generates the revenue needed to operate its airports from rents and fees paid by airport users.  A recent economic impact study estimates that MSP generates more than $10 billion in annual economic activity in the metropolitan area and supports more than 76,000 jobs.
About Ameresco, Inc.
Founded in 2000, Ameresco, Inc. is a leading independent provider of comprehensive services, energy efficiency, infrastructure upgrades, asset sustainability and renewable energy solutions for facilities throughout North America. Ameresco’s services include upgrades to a facility’s energy infrastructure and the development, construction and operation of renewable energy plants.  Ameresco has successfully completed energy saving, environmentally responsible projects with federal, state and local governments, healthcare and educational institutions, housing authorities, and commercial and industrial customers.  With its corporate headquarters in Framingham, MA, Ameresco provides local expertise through its 69 offices in 34 states, five Canadian provinces and the United Kingdom. Ameresco has more than 900 employees. For more information, visit