January 20, 2010
Austin’s Largest Solar Roof Top System
Installation of a revolutionary thin film solar product is under way at the Austin Water Utility’s Glen Bell Service Center in Southeast Austin. Once complete, it will be the largest solar roof top system in Austin, and also the first to use thin film technology. Glen Bell is expected to receive around 30 percent of its power from solar energy, and save $17,000 on electric bills each year.
Almost 950 solar panels are being glued directly onto 22,000 square feet of roof space. Each panel is 18-feet long by 15 and ½ inches wide. When complete, the 136-kW system is expected to save 167,605 kWh annually which is enough power to provide electricity to 17 average-sized homes in Austin for an entire year.
The panels are a lightweight thin film that peels and sticks directly onto the roof top, compared to traditional solar modules that are mounted on racks. The thin film weighs three-quarters of a pound per square foot, compared to 20-25 pounds per square foot for a standard rack-mounted module.
This thin film design benefits customers who are unable to use rack systems due to building height and structural integrity, exposure to high wind loads, or strict requirements related to aesthetics. Thin film technology also performs better in the early mornings and evenings because it can capture sunlight at any angle due to the panels laying flat. The manufacturer (Texas Solar Power Company) offers a 20-year warranty on the product, and the life span of the modules is estimated at 25-30 years.
This latest installation at Glen Bell is part of Austin Energy’s Strategic Plan to install solar panels at highly visible locations such as City buildings, libraries, and schools as a way to create public awareness and educate citizens about the advantages of using solar power. This is the 30th City facility to receive a solar installation. Solar systems have also been installed by Austin Energy at 28 schools.
While this particular installation is a capital improvements project, Austin Energy’s Solar Rebate Program is one of the utility’s most successful programs. More than 900 residential and commercial systems have been installed, with total installed solar capacity in Austin estimated to be 3.4 MW.