Sunlit City Parks – Helping Light the Way on Solar Power

by Alison Lueders, Great Green Editing

Last month, the city of St. Petersburg announced a $2.4 million federal grant to fund installation of solar panels at 19 of the city’s parks and recreational sites.

The project, called Sunlit City Parks, will not only save the city energy costs, but also serve as an education program about solar energy. Here is a list of the sites if you’d like to check them out.┬áTampa-based Solar Source actually installed the systems, which vary from small to large depending on the location.

Educational kiosks are outside many of the installations so visitors can see – in real time – how much electricity is being produced and consumed. The Educational Innovation Center will also have signs and information to help educate the public about solar energy.

The Sunlit Parks installations also serve as data collection points for the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL). The Department of Energy chose St. Petersburg to monitor Southeastern climate and energy data with these experimental solar systems. Data on electrical production, wind speed, temperature and light levels will be transmitted to the DOE for industry research.

This initiative reflects the continued record growth in solar power installations and jobs nationwide in 2012. According to a report from GTM Research, installers deployed 684 megawatts of solar projects in the third quarter, representing 44% growth over the third quarter in 2011. The continued boom in solar means more jobs and better economics.

According to the 2012 census of the solar industry conducted by the Solar Foundation, the sector now employs over 119,000 Americans – an increase of 13,872 workers over 2011. That’s 13% growth in jobs compared to about 2.3% growth in the economy overall. As more systems are deployed and businesses get more efficient, the price of solar continues to fall. A recent article from Triple Pundit headlined, “Cost of Installed Solar Power is Sinking Like a Stone” speaks to that.

So kudos to the city of St. Petersburg for participating in this pilot project. Let’s hope this on-the-ground data helps the still-fledgling solar industry to become ever more cost-efficient!