The lights of the Atlantic City Convention Center will soon twinkle a little greener with what it claims will be the country’s largest single-rooftop solar energy system. Arlington, Va.-based utility Pepco Energy Services will install photovoltaic panels on 290,000 square feet — or about two-thirds — of the center’s main roof to kick out 2.36 megawatts of power. Under the agreement, Pepco will pay to put its panels up and then will sell power to the center by way of a 20-year power purchase agreement.
The panels will provide a quarter of the center’s daily electrical needs. With 500,000 contiguous square feet of space, its annual electricity bills total some $1.4 million; the agreement is expected to save a total of $4.4 million. Work is scheduled to start soon and finish before the end of the year, when the federal tax credits for solar are set to expire.
Power purchase agreements are increasingly popular in both commercial and residential solar markets. Recurrent Energy recently sold 5 megawatts of power to the city of San Francisco in a PPA, and SunRun and Akeena have teamed up to offer PPAs to homeowners. These agreements can help consumers avoid the high upfront cost of purchasing a system, while for the installer, they lock in customers and cash flow. Switching solar to a service-based model puts the pressure on making the electrons coming off the panel cheaper, which is all that matters.