solar-roof-orange-cty-conv-ctr.jpgThe Sunshine State has begun to turn some of those Florida rays into energy with the unveiling yesterday of the largest rooftop solar installation in the southeastern US atop the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

Solar panels spanning the length of five and a half football fields will generate 1,300 megawatt-hours of electricity each year – greatly reducing the carbon footprint and electricity costs of the second largest convention center in the US.

The power generated from the roof panels would offset the center’s $12 million annual energy bill, and at some point, may begin to return electricity to the local grid during the same peak hours when air conditioners strain energy supplies.

The new one-megawatt photovoltaic (PV) system was made possible by a $2.5 million grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Additional support provided by agencies like the US Dept of Energy brought the total amount of funding to $8.8 Million.

“The solar panels and equipment should last up to 40 years, and the upfront costs could be recouped in less than half that time,” The Orlando Sentinel reported after talking to Bob Reedy, a director at the Florida Solar Energy Center, a University of Central Florida research institute. “It’s a very winning economic proposition.”

Local officials flipped the switch on the new roof to kick off the Green Cities Florida Conference, a two-day event showcasing the latest in renewable technologies for businesses, communities and governments interested in embarking down the road to greener sustainability.

The installation is a U.S. Department of Energy Solar America Showcase. Solar America Showcases are part of the Department of Energy’s solar program strategy to accelerate and advance solar technologies. 

orange-county-conv-center.jpgAll Solar America Showcase projects receive free Department of Energy technical assistance utilizing experts from the national laboratories, universities, and competitively selected engineering firms. Best practices and “lessons learned” from other solar projects are applied to each Solar America Showcase project, and upon completion, each Solar America Showcase serves as easily replicable models.

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