Webster Groves plans to install solar panels on its city service center sometime in the spring of 2014. The Webster Govers City Council approved the 20-year, $130,000 lease with Brightergy at a City Council meeting last month.
Webster Groves still needs further approval from the Ameren UE utility company, as well as city and county inspections once the installation process begins. The installation process usually takes between 7-10 days. Webster Groves Director of Public Works Paul Verheyen said he expects the system to be operational by mid-April. However, he said that it may take longer depending on how long approvals and inspections take.
“It was the cost savings over the 20 years along with the environmental impact,” Verheyen said. “Those were the two main factors that led the Council to want to go ahead with it. They’re very environmentally cocscious.”
The 85-kilowatt system will produce 60 percent of the energy needed at the service center.
Verheyen said the solar system would affect the environment positively. He said the system is estimated to eliminate 157,927 pounds of CO2 annually.
Since the city is leasing the system, Verheyen said Brightergy would maintain the system for the entirety of the 20 years. He added in his estimation that the city would save $225,000 in energy costs during those 20 years.
Verheyen said the city has been considering utilizing solar power since the fall of 2012. He said Clayton’s recent investment in solar power influenced his interest in solar power.
Verheyen said Public Works has researched cost and maintenance of employing the system. They requested the money in the budget for this fiscal year, which started July 1. The money comes from the city’s capital improvement sales tax.
The U.S. solar industry had its second highest quarter this year. It is on track to break another record for the entire year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). SEIA’s recent study stated that the cumulative solar electric power capacity in the U.S. is more than 9,370 megawatts. It also stated that amount of solar energy is enough to power more than 1.5 million American homes.
The City of Clayton, Mo., signed a lease with Brightergy within the past year. It installed solar panels on the roof of its municipal facility and parking garage at 10 S. Brentwood Ave. earlier this year. Its 160-kilowatt solar panel system includes 490 of the 327-watt panels. Clayton estimates the system will produce 204,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy on a yearly basis.
The national average cost for solar systems has dropped more than 60 percent since 2011, according to an SEIA study.
Ameren’s rebates are part of an agreement between Ameren and The Missouri Public Service Commission. The agreement was a reaction to Missouri’s green power law, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Ameren has offered rebates at $2 per watt. In January, the dollar amount per watt for the rebate will decrease to $1.50.
Verheyen said Straight up Solar also submitted a bid for the project. But, while Brightergy’s prepaid cost was $130,00, Straight Up Solar’s cost prepaid cost was $153,000.