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MISSION VIEJO, CA-Simon Property Group of Indianapolis has unveiled a new solar panel installation at the 1.1-million-square-foot Shops at Mission Viejo regional mall that is believed to be the largest solar installation at a US mall. Simon has entered into a power purchase agreement with Element Markets, a Houston-based developer of clean energy, for the output of a 173 kilowatt solar facility on the roof of the mall.

According to George Caraghiaur, vice president of energy services at Simon, the mall owner believes that, as the solar industry matures and technological improvements continue to drive down the cost of installations, “We expect that solar renewable energy purchases will become a cost-effective component of our sustainability strategy.” Caraghiaur says that Simon chose to partner with Element Markets as a are a leader in the field of renewable energy and carbon management.

Construction on the solar facility began during the holiday shopping season, according to Melissa Palencia, the mall manager at the Shops at Mission Viejo. She says that the project was carried out without any disruption to normal business for tenants or customers.

The Shops at Mission Viejo is 100% owned by Simon and is anchored by major retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Macy’s. It is located along the Santa Ana Freeway near the Route 73 Orange County toll road.

The solar installation at the regional mall is the second major solar effort in the commercial real estate industry in Southern California in recent months. The other was an installation at the 775,000-square-foot MGM Tower office project in Century City by Constellation Place LLC, an affiliate of Chicago-based JMB Realty Corp.

The installation is on the top level of the MGM Tower parking structure and includes a total of 1,408 panels covering more than an acre. It is expected to generate more than 570,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually and eliminate 277 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The solar field was installed by SPG Solar, a solar power construction specialist.

The Simon move also comes at the same time as Cleveland-based Developers Diversified Realty is launching a rooftop solar photovoltaic system at its shopping centers, beginning with projects in California, Colorado, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Working in partnership with Beltsville, MD-based SunEdison– North America’s largest solar energy services provider–Developers Diversified will undertake a multi-phase deployment with the option of installing systems at hundreds of the company’s 700-plus centers.

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