December 4, 2016

Webster Groves to increase green energy usage

Webster Groves will work to make three percent of its total energy consumption citywide “green” by May. Webster Groves City Council voted to participate in this challenge in the spring. This goal is part of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s  (EPA) Green Power community status.

Ameren Missouri, which supplies electricity, and Microgrid Solar, which installs solar panel systems, are working with Webster Groves to help the community reach that goal.

The City of Webster Groves committed to purchasing renewable energy credits. The credits can be purchased through any green certified Renewable Energy Credit supplier. Residents and businesss may also purchase credits.

Renewable energy producing facilities create credits when they produce electricity. The purchase of the credits helps fund renewable energy development, according to Renewable Choice’s website.

Webster University graduate student Kris Parsons said she is most excited about Microgrid Solar offering zero cost upfront for residents and businesses that participate in the program. They will install solar energy systems with no cost upfront.

“That’s really going to help get individuals and businesses in the community to feel like they’re a part of this effort, and that they not only have a responsibility to act but a capability to act,” Parsons said.

As an undergraduate student, Parsons was part of Webster Students for Environmental Sustainability (WSES). Several members of WSES, including Parsons, put sustainability and wind power on the Delegates’ Agenda in fall 2011 for students to present to administration. At the time, students pushed Webster University’s administration to make wind the university’s main energy source, not coal.

“I think the Green Power Challenge is a step in the right direction, mostly because of the educational aspect and promotional aspect. And hopefully it’s a stepping stone to getting individual residents and businesses ready to do more to become a truly sustainable community,” Parsons said.

Parsons said if the city’s goal is to increase renewable energy usage in Webster Groves to only three percent, then the program is more about publicity than sustainability.

Green Power Community Team Leader, Kathleen Engel said Webster Groves is a community that is already “engaged in this (sustainability) conversation.” She added Webster Groves is close to the three percent goal, which is why the city only has until May to reach it. Usually, communities are given a year to reach their goal.

Webster Groves is one of only 50 communities across the U.S. to take on the EPA Green Community Status Challenge. Webster Groves is the third community in the state. Clayton and Creve Coeur previously participated.

The program works with Farmer City Wind Farm in Northwestern Missouri to help communities get wind power. Stuart Keating, state advocate with the environmental advocacy group Environment Missouri, said about one percent of Missouri’s total energy capacity is generated wind.

“It’s an exciting, cool, new technology. It doesn’t pollute, it doesn’t use water,” Keating said.

He said coal pollution is largely responsible for St. Louis City’s poor air quality. He said renewable energy sources and energy produced from non-fossil fuel resources are better for air quality.

While the program will challenge the community to use more solar and wind power, or green energy, it will also educate the community about energy conservation. Engel said it’s easy to conserve power.

“It’s education,” Engel said. “When people know better, they’ll do better.”

Engel said the kick-off event at Straubs in Webster Groves at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 2, will have an educational focus. She said there will be presentations and seminars about green energy and energy conservation later on as the city works to accomplish its goal.

Parsons said programs like the Green Power Challenge help raise awareness and get individuals in the community involved. She said the educational aspect is the most important part of the program.

“It’s a stepping stone, but it’s not the answer,” Parsons said. “I’ll be interested to see what the follow up is.”

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