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From Sewage Plants to Overpasses, Solar Finding Unique Uses, Locations

FirstSolarpanels2Utilities and state departments are finding both unique uses and locations for solar-array projects as solar module makers like First Solar ramp up production to meet growing demand.

Unlike California, Arizona or Mexico with lots of land, solar installers in New Jersey need to find creative ways to install arrays primarily in tight spaces, reports NewJersey.com (via The Record).

As an example, the Northwest Bergen Utilities Authority in Waldwick recently installed two football field-sized solar arrays atop a platform 11 feet above raw sewage tanks, reports NewJersey.com.

The $2.3-million project, consisting of a large metal canopy with 1,547 solar panels, took two months to complete, reports NewJersey.com. The panels provide between 27 percent to 40 percent of the plant’s energy. The plant now saves about $80,000 annually by generating its own electricity and selling solar credits on the open market, according to the article.

Another solar project planned in New Jersey is the Meadowlands Commission’s “solar canopy” over its parking lot in Lyndhurst in addition to a previous project to install panels on some of its closed landfills, reports NewJersey.com.

The Meadowlands Commission received $8.5 million in federal stimulus funds to build what’s being called the state’s largest solar power facility on a dormant landfill, according to the article. The 5-megawatt array could generate enough electricity to power 600 homes.

In Missouri, instead of creative installations, the state is finding new ways to put solar energy to good use. The Missouri Department of Transportation plans to install a solar warming system on two bridges to reduce the time and money spent on clearing ice and snow off the bridges, and to extend the life of the bridges, which is shortened by salting during the winter, reports the St. Louis Business Journal.

The transportation department has selected Pave Guard Technologies Inc. to install the $183,000 solar warming system on the two bridges. The system will be installed between April and August of 2010.

Keeping up with new solar demand, First Solar said it is the first photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer to ship more than 1 gigawatt (GW) of product in a single year. The PV company said 1 GW produces enough electricity to power about 145,000 average American homes and saves roughly 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

First Solar has increased its manufacturing capacity from approximately 75 megawatts (MW) per year at the beginning of 2007 to more than 1 GW in 2009. The company also broke the $1 per watt barrier earlier this year.

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