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Grow Solar Metro East Brings Affordable Renewable Energy to Residential Homes

Article by: Nate Keener, Sustainability Director, Lewis & Clark Community College, (618) 468-2782, nkeener@lc.edu

GODFREY – This Earth Day, Grow Solar Metro East will launch the fourth year of its group-buy program. The program, which began in 2016, offers the opportunity to learn more about solar energy and to access more affordable pricing on solar installations during 2020.

Lewis and Clark College and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), in partnership with Glen Carbon Cool Cities Committee and Sierra Club Piasa Palisades are supporting the bulk solar group-purchase program for residents and businesses throughout Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair Counties.

Past years of the Grow Solar Metro East program showed that Metro East residents are ready for their own renewable energy systems. Since 2016, 175 home and business owners installed solar on their Metro East properties through the program. These arrays are calculated to reduce 2.8 million pounds of carbon emissions by avoiding 1.4 million pounds (seven rail cars) of coal consumption in their first year alone. This is equivalent to the annual carbon sequestration of 1,662 acres of U.S forests, according to the EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions Equivalencies Calculator.

Solar energy also helps lower the cost of utility bills. The systems installed through the 2019 Grow Solar Metro East program will yield an average yearly utility savings of $1,217 in the first year for the property owners.

Godfrey’s Virginia Woulfe-Beile is among the program leaders.

"My husband and I took advantage of the Solarize Godfrey group buy and have had our rooftop array online since October of 2016,” Woulfe-Beile said. “Our system offsets approximately 90% of our electricity charges. We are seeing real savings on our Ameren bill and receiving Solar Renewable energy credits as well."

Over the next few months, Grow Solar Metro East will provide several free, hour-long virtual educational sessions for members of the public. These Solar Power Hours will give prospective participants information about how solar energy works, the financial costs and incentives, how solar group buy programs are effective and where to get started in the solar installation process.

As more people join the program and decide to go solar, pricing becomes more affordable. On the other side of the Mississippi, a similar program called Grow Solar St. Louis will contribute to the overall total, accelerating the price reductions. New this year, the Grow Solar program will offer webinars and on-demand learning modules for the public.

The program’s website, GrowSolarMetroEast.org, includes a sign-up form where area residents and business owners can elect to receive an estimate or general program updates and Solar Power Hour announcements.

Kevin McKee, of Collinsville, is a program volunteer.

"Our team of volunteers is excited to offer this program again to Metro East residents and businesses,” McKee said. “We like to think that most people want solar power because of its environmental benefits. But we know that price still matters, and that's why we work to bring this program to the Metro East. Solar power clearly is becoming more popular and accepted as the prices drop, and as folks see friends and neighbors adopt solar power."

Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) has facilitated 34 programs throughout the Midwest in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa. They have reached over 8,000 individuals resulting in solar installations on more than 1,600 properties.

“Because so many people are working from home now, lowering electricity bills is more important than ever,” MRE Solar Program Director Peter Murphy said. “There’s a huge demand for information about solar, and we’re demonstrating that solar and energy efficiency can help lots of people lower their bills and improve their quality of life.”

The solar installer for Grow Solar Metro East was selected through a competitive request for proposals that were reviewed by an advisory committee looking at professional certification, experience and price. The committee chose StraightUp Solar, based in St. Louis. They have high quality solar installations, are NABCEP credentialed, emphasize customer service, are very familiar with the region and have excellent history in working in solar group buy programs.

The Grow Solar St. Louis program enables residents to effectively save resources and improve local energy security through the generation of renewable energy while simultaneously conserving energy and reducing long-term energy costs.

The first few of the free Solar Power Hour presentations are as follows:

  • 4/28 Tuesday 12:00-1:00 PM Solar Power Hour on Zoom
  • 4/30 Thursday 1:00-2:00 PM Solar Power Hour on Zoom
  • 5/4 Monday 3:00-4:00 PM Solar Power Hour on Zoom
  • 5/8 Friday 4:00-5:00 PM Solar Power Hour on Zoom

Sign up, register for a webinar and learn more at GrowSolarMetroEast.org.

Renew Missouri will also launch a separate, similar Commercial & Industrial Solar program for the St. Louis region to allow non-residential (including businesses, municipalities, hospitals, schools and universities) to install solar at a competitive rate.

For more information, contact Lewis and Clark Community College Sustainability Director Nate Keener at (618) 468-2782 or nkeener@lc.edu.