Building Resilience, Part 2: Powering the Future with Sunlight
Zachary Eichholz, Sustainability Program Manager/Resilience Planner
May 25, 2021
Where appropriate and feasible, the City of Cape Canaveral is utilizing and expanding its use of renewable energy. Renewable energy is defined as energy that comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished. Many forms of renewable energy are passive, capturing energy produced by a natural phenomenon instead of releasing energy; as is usually the case with nonrenewable sources that must be burned in order to initiate power generation. It is this act of burning that makes the polluting emissions of nonrenewables, such as coal and oil, so intensive. The most prominent forms of renewable energy currently on the market are solar, wind, hydro, hydrogen, geothermal, wave and tidal, and biomass.
In terms of resilience (where the City seeks to become as self-sufficient as possible should a hazardous situation require), renewables offer greater opportunities than fossil fuels since they can be better distributed and scalable for onsite power generation. Coal, petroleum, and natural gas facilities are large and centralized. A renewable system, such as a solar array for example, can be built to any size and can fit in numerous locations, even in confined urban environments. When combined with a battery storage system, renewables can partially or completely power operations (depending on installation size) for extended periods of time; ensuring continuity of operations, a reduced loss of critical services and quicker recovery times. These systems can also save money on energy costs since the City would need to take less energy from the grid that it would otherwise need to pay for.
In the Sunshine State, solar energy is the most feasible form of renewable energy the City can use, having roughly 240 days on average of what can be considered predominantly “sunny” days compared to the national average of 205 days. There are several different forms of solar energy, with the City using the form known as photovoltaics. Photovoltaics are used in traditional solar panels when semiconducting material (silicon) is exposed to sunlight, absorbs the light and transfers the energy to negatively charged particles called electrons. These electrons flow through the semiconducting material as electrical current, then through metal contacts—the grid-like lines on a solar cell—before traveling to an inverter where the power is turned from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) for use. This method of energy generation produces zero operational emissions.
What follows are some examples of solar-related projects the City has done or is preparing to do in the near future in order to lower operating costs, be more environmentally friendly and increase resilience.
Throughout the community, the City has just over 160 free standing solar powered lights illuminating pedways, parks and City facilities. Installation of many of these lights began about five years ago, but due to the rapid technological development of solar technology, the City has instituted a replacement and upgrade plan spanning from 2020 to 2025. This replacement and upgrade plan will convert all of the City’s existing solar lighting on Ridgewood and North Atlantic Avenues to newer, more efficient fixtures at a rate of 21 units per year starting in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. To date, 14 units have already been replaced and upgraded between these two thoroughfares.
Additionally, the City will be installing new solar lighting at Canaveral City Park around the Multi-Generational Facility and along West Central Boulevard as part of the West Central Boulevard streetscape project.
Each of these new solar lights come from a company called First Light Technologies. While the design of fixtures will vary slightly from site to site, each of the new lights will utilize smaller all-in-one heads that allow for a sleeker, more compact design than the City’s older lights. This will offer easier maintenance, and less surface area for wind to grab hold of during storm events, reducing the chances of damage. New lights also have an increased battery capacity, are programmable and controllable, and are less than a third of the cost per unit compared to existing solar lights in the City.
Examples of new solar lights can also be found at the City’s dog park―Rover’s Space―at Xeriscape Park, at Wagner Park and the Water Reclamation Facility.
CAPE Center Rooftop Solar Array
The goal of the CAPE Center project is to repurpose the old City Hall building as an accredited institution of Cultural Enrichment, with a focus on public engagement in all aspects of the arts as well as the promotion and preservation of Cape Canaveral’s history. Supporting culture and education is one of the tenets outlined by the residents in the City’s Vision Statement. This project fulfills that expectation and serves to address other ideas outlined during the visioning process. Goals include creating an inclusive destination, engaging multiple generations and creating a sense of place. This will be achieved through the development of enrichment/educational programs, sustainable design, implementing a multifaceted public art program, promoting/preserving local history and hosting cultural events.
The revitalized building will also feature one of the City’s first rooftop solar arrays. Once complete, an east-west ballasted solar array composed of at least 56 panels will be able to produce 33 kilowatts of clean electricity, offsetting all of the building's power needs during peak hours of operation. Annual estimated production of this array will be 38,129-kilowatt-hours. Rated to withstand wind speeds of up to 160 mph, it will help to also abate an estimated 1,445,490 pounds (723 tons) of carbon dioxide over its 25-year lifespan; equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by 10,842 tree seedlings grown for 10 years*. By the end of this lifespan, the system will have helped to save the City at least $108,000 in utility costs.
Multi-Generational Facility Rooftop Solar Array
Like the CAPE Center, the upcoming Multi-Generational Facility at Canaveral City Park is set to host a ballasted rooftop solar array designed to offset the building’s electric utility costs. Once complete, an east-west ballasted solar array composed of at least 72 panels will be able to produce 50 kilowatts of clean electricity, offsetting much of the building's power needs during peak hours of operation. Annual estimated production of this array will be 85,015.6-kilowatt-hours. Rated to withstand wind speeds of up to 160 mph, it will help to also abate an estimated 3,193,918 pounds (1,597 tons) of carbon dioxide over its 25-year lifespan; equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by 23,955 tree seedlings grown for 10 years*. By the end of this lifespan, the system will have helped to save the City at least $242,525 in utility costs.
Mobile Solar Generator
In December 2019 the City acquired its first mobile solar generator. It will be used at City events, for appropriate construction duties, and—perhaps most importantly—for disaster relief operations after tropical storms and hurricanes.
The unit is capable of powering and recharging numerous mission-critical devices at any given time, including cell phones, laptops, power tools, audio equipment, external lighting fixtures and certain appliances. This will help the City to maintain operations in the event of power outages, all without the need for traditional gasoline or diesel fuel.
Its three 335 watt LG solar panels have a daily energy harvest of 6-kilowatt-hours with an inverter output rated at 3.5 kilowatts (3,500 watts) with a surge of 6 kilowatts (6,000 watts). The included batteries are charged by the unit’s solar panels, have an overall lifespan of 12 to 15 years and can last up to two days on a single charge.
Other City Solar Projects in Development
The City is actively scoping other solar related projects across its facilities. Two proposed examples include a rooftop solar array atop the Public Works Services (PWS) Administrative Building, and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Cape Canaveral Precinct. These buildings have been identified as critical assets that must have enhanced resilience against hazard events so as to help maintain safety and security throughout the community and other important municipal operations.
The PWS Administrative Building has been scoped to hold a 32 panel 10 kilowatt rooftop solar array that will see the City save over $55,000 in energy costs over the system's 25-year lifespan, as well as abate 544,542 pounds (272 tons) of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by over 5,000 tree seedlings grown for 10 years*. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Cape Canaveral Precinct has been scoped to hold a 108 panel 47 kilowatt rooftop solar array that will see the City save over $144,479 in energy costs over the system’s 25-year lifespan, as well as abate 2,826,326 pounds (1,413 tons) of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by over 26,000 tree seedlings grown for 10 years*.
Eventually, the goal is that sometime after installation, each of these systems would be upgraded to incorporate battery storage systems that would work in tandem with existing backup diesel generators to increase the amount of time the facilities can work off-grid if necessary. Battery storage systems are noiseless banks of batteries situated in housings, like shipping containers or smaller, that allow energy to be stored for later use. Working together, a battery storage system can prolong the operations and efficiency of existing diesel generators, which alone can continue to partially power facilities for several days when fully fueled.