Webster University invests in, installs solar panels on campus


Webster University began installing solar panels on the University Center (UC) and Visual Arts Studio (VAS) building Monday, March 17. The university will install units at four other locations on and off campus.

Solar panels will also be installed on the roofs of Webster Hall, Loretto Hall, Old Orchard Shopping Center and technology center buildings at 40 Rock Hill Road in Old Webster.

The solar panels are part of a university initiative to supplement at least three percent of its total energy from green power. Webster Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin said the university hopes to increase the amount of energy it obtains from renewable sources.
At the Delegates’ Agenda in fall of 2011, the student organization Webster Students for Environmental Sustainability (WSES) proposed the university move towards 100 percent renewable energy usage by 2030.

Delegates’ Agenda is a process in which students pick five issues on campus and present potential solutions to Webster’s administration.
At the time, Webster did not agree to use 100 percent renewable energy, but responded to the proposal by creating a Sustainability Coordinator position.

Steven Strang, senior project manager at Webster University, said the university took advantage of Ameren UE rebates. Strang said the university is leasing the panels.

The university estimates it will save roughly $800,000 over the 25-year lifespan of the panels. Strang said the university will benefit from the solar panels after just one year.

Since Webster University is located in Webster Groves, the university’s investment in solar power will also count towards the city’s green energy usage. Webster Groves is working to make three percent of its total energy consumption citywide “green” by May. The effort is part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power community program.

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 university used cranes to place the solar panels on top of some roofs during spring break. Microgrid Solar will install the panels throughout the next six weeks. However, Strang said installation may be completed ahead of schedule.

Brad Wolaver, Webster’s former sustainability coordinator, told The Journal in December that investment in solar power makes sense for the university.
“It makes sense from, not just a carbon footprint perspective and weaning ourselves off of non-renewables, but it makes financial sense as well,” Wolaver said.

Wolaver said Ameren’s rebates made the investment in solar power attractive for the university.
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.

In 2013, the U.S. generated enough electricity from solar to power two million homes, according to a report the Solar Energy Industries Association. That number is up 41 percent from 2012. Twenty-nine percent of new electricity generation in the U.S. in 2013 came from solar power.

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