Photovoltaic (PV) Panels: Photovoltaics is a method of producing electricity by converting solar radiation into usable energy. Solar panels composed of hundreds of solar cells containing photovoltaic material allow photons of light from the sun to excite electrons into a higher state of energy, enabling them to carry a charge for electric current. The electric current generated can be used for a wide variety of purposes, from street lights to trash compactors, causing solar photovoltaics to be the third most important renewable energy source after wind and hydro power. St. Louis County uses PV technology in several ways, implementing arrays in parking lots for lighting, or on rooftops for multiple uses in buildings.
Solar Air Heat: Solar air heating is a type of solar thermal technology in which solar radiation is captured by an absorbing medium and used to heat air inside of a building. As the most cost-effective of the solar technologies, solar air heating dramatically reduces energy requirements for space heating, the largest usage of building energy in most climates. Solar air collectors can be implemented on virtually any surface receiving ample sunlight, making this renewable energy source extremely versatile and practical for any building. St. Louis County uses a solar air heating system at the Hibbing Annex building that can pre-heat incoming air up to 60 degrees using only absorbed solar heat. The system has no moving parts and requires almost no maintenance, making it a smart, economical, energy-saving investment.
Solar Water Heaters: Another way in which the Hibbing Annex building saves energy is by using a solar hot water heater for its restrooms. Utilizing the sun as a free and unlimited source of fuel, this solar heater effectively provides the building with 50 to 80 gallons of 140°F water at no extra cost to the environment or taxpayers!