California performing arts center to install solar

Wells Fargo Center for the Arts gets solarThe Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, Calif. will install what could be the largest solar array on a performing arts center in the country.

The 400-kilowatt solar array will include 1,630 panels and produce 90 percent of the center’s electricity needs.

“We’re so excited by that,” said center spokeswoman Kristi Buffo. “We’re so pleased with 90.”

She said she’s been researching other performing arts centers in the country to see if there are any with larger solar installations and she hasn’t found one.

The solar panels will be mounted on four rows of sunshade carport structures in the center’s parking lot

California-based Nelson Solar Projects will fund the project and the center will buy the electricity through a power purchase agreement that will cost about 5 percent less than the center is paying to PG&E right now, Buffo said.

A principal at Enphase Energy is on the center's honarary board. So, when center management was trying to come up with ways to keep operating costs down, solar naturally entered into the conversation. The board member talked with Nelson Solar Projects, which is a corporate alliance partner of the center. Nelson crafted the deal.

The center’s payments will be credited toward the purchase price of the solar panels and a balloon payment at the end of the 10-year PPA will make the solar installation the property of the center.

Once the center owns the solar generation outright, it expects to save $125,000 to $150,000 a year on electric bills, Buffo said.

She said center directors have a plan in place to manage the balloon payment when the time comes. For now, the center will simply enjoy the discounted electricity.

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