This project has been selected as a finalist in the Sustainable Business category:

MAc's sustainable star solar pv and led lighting project

Project Summary

This iconic $25.4 million project was a joint effort between the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and Ameresco. Ameresco installed solar panels on top of two parking ramps at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s (MSP) Terminal 1-Lindbergh. The 3-megawatt solar, custom steel superstructure supports more than 8,700 solar panels. Additional solutions included converting existing lights to energy-saving technology. Amongst four parking ramps in Terminal 1, 7,743 metal halide light fixtures were converted to energy-saving LED technology. Ameresco replaced stairwell lighting, retrofitted light fixtures, and installed new rental car area and top level lights. Four electric vehicle charging stations were installed at two ramps, bringing the total number of vehicle charging stations at MSP to twelve. Ameresco has provided a 20-year guarantee, and will operate and maintain the facility.

The project is currently the largest non-utility-scale Solar PV project in the State of MN, and the largest integrated solar PV and lighting project at an airport in the country.

Project Website 


Project Partners

  • GreenMark Solar
  • Renesola
  • Thrivent Financial
  • Hunt Electric
  • County Boards of Hennepin, Scott, Stearns, Ramsey and Anoka
  • Xcel Energy
  • The City Councils of Minneapolis and Saint Paul
  • Cooper Lighting
  • tenKsolar
  • The State of Minnesota – Department of Management and Budget

How did the project partners work together?

MAC has a longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship. MAC wanted to launch the first solar and LED lighting energy efficiency project of its kind in the country. Together with a local environmental and solar consulting firm, GreenMark, MAC identified the Ameresco team as the best overall team to develop and oversee this project based on their experiences at other airports and large public universities around the country.

As lead developer of the project, Ameresco brought in several Minnesota partners including:

  • tenKsolar, Inc. as the Minnesota-based manufacturer of solar PV panels, including tenKsolar’s partnership with 3M,
  • Hunt Electric was the electrical subcontractor for the solar and the LED lighting installations.
  • Cooper Lighting / Eaton Corporation for the LED fixtures in the parking ramps
  • Thrivent Financial was the selected financial partner

Ameresco and the MAC worked very closely with many other partners for the financing of the project:

  • Xcel Energy, through its Renewable Development Fund (RDF) Grant Program. Xcel Energy recommended the funding for a $2 million RDF grant to the MAC for this project and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved Xcel Energy‘s recommendations for the grant at their meeting in January of 2014. Xcel also provided rebates for the high efficiency lighting installations.
  • Various local government partners: Hennepin, Scott, Stearns, Ramsey and Anoka Counties and the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, provided reallocations of federally authorized Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) to help finance the project at lower subsidized interest rates.

The MAC’s Sustainable Solar PV and LED Lighting Project has truly been a very successful collaboration due to the commitment of all of these local partners.

How is the project groundbreaking?

Ameresco is proud to be a sustainability partner in an innovative project with the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (MSP). This project was truly groundbreaking in the following ways:

  • Cost Effectiveness – The energy savings from the LED lighting upgrades at all four parking ramps at Terminal 1-Lindbergh and the energy production from 3MW of solar PV panels installed on the roof of two parking ramps jointly produce enough dollar savings to totally self-fund the $25.4M project cost. The combined low interest rate financing provided by the use of reallocated QECB’s from eight local governments and a $2M Xcel energy grant further provides for the cost effectiveness of this project and produces a positive cash flow each year and a Net Present Value (NPV) savings of more than $10M over a 30-year term.
  • Local job creation – The project used local solar panels, local labor for the solar and lighting installation and LED lighting fixtures via a local supplier - creating more than 250 local jobs.
  • Substantial Environmental Savings – the project sets a “standard” for Environmental savings as the largest solar PV project in the State of MN – (per the MN – Solar Energy Industry Association - MNSEIA). This project saves the equivalent of 6,813 metric tons of CO2 per year, which is equal to eliminating emissions from 1,424 vehicles each year.
  • Project partnership –More than seventeen local companies / governments were part of a “team” working together to make this project successful.

Governor Dayton and many other local and state dignitaries presided over the ground breaking kick-off for this project in late 2014.

What are the project goals?

The goal of this project was to implement an iconic and comprehensive solar energy program at MSP that could be integrated with other MAC sustainability programs to showcase energy innovations at the airport and focus public awareness on energy conservation. The MAC was also seeking to continue its leadership among airports on sustainability issues, including energy conservation and innovation Another goal was to promote the expansion of cost-effective innovative renewable energy projects in Minnesota. With 36 million passengers annually at MSP, this project provides a high-visibility example of how alternative energy sources can also be cost-effective.

What are the project outcomes?

The $25.4M project is expected to generate enough in energy savings from the LED lighting and electricity production from the solar PV panels to self-fund the project cost and also produce more than $10 million net present value (NPV) over 30 years. Through MSP’s partnership with Ameresco, the airport saves the equivalent of 6,813 metric tons of CO2 per year. The green benefit from this carbon reduction is roughly equal to about 1,434 vehicles each year.

The success of this project prompted the start of a similar but smaller project (1.3MW solar and LED lighting) at MSP’s Terminal 2-Humphrey, with a completion date in late 2016. Combined, these two projects will result in a 4.3 MW solar generation system, which will continue to be the largest, non-utility-grade, solar PV project in Minnesota.

Event Details

Thursday, May 25, 2017
5:00 - 5:45 p.m. Registration & reception
5:45 - 8:00 p.m. Dinner & program
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Dessert & reception 

Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401

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Presenting Sponsors

Environmental Lay Group

Great River Energy

Reception sponsor

25th Anniversary Sponsors


Community Action

Critical Collaborator

Stoel Rives LLP

Emerging Leader


Energy and Climate

The Weidt Group

Natural Resources

Sustainable Business

Supporting Sponsors

Minnesota Power

partner SPONSORs

In-kind sponsors


CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Consulate General of Canada

Rochester Public Utilities

Associate Sponsors

Bremer Bank
G & K Services
Nova Consulting
Smith Partners