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Solar Energy

Solar panels are showing up more often on farms. File foto from Fickr
David Goehring | Flickr

Low crop prices and an ongoing trade war limiting exports are adding to the financial struggles of farming. 

Across the nation, and in Missouri, an increasing number of farmers are looking to solar energy as a way to shore up the bottom line.

Missouri Botanical Garden's Glenda Abney (at left) and StraightUp Solar's Eric Schneider joined Monday's program to discuss a pilot project for St Louis residents that helps pool their buying power for discounts on solar panels.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

While the sun’s rays were at full effect this August, the Missouri Botanical Garden launched its Grow Solar St. Louis program for St. Louis-area home and business owners. In partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and Washington University, property owners throughout the city and county can participate in this pilot program to pool their buying power for discounts on solar panels.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske was joined by Glenda Abney, director of the Garden’s EarthWays Center, to delve into why the initiative was started and how interested St. Louisans can use green energy to power their homes. 

A worker installing a solar panel.
Ameren Missouri

Two recently launched programs in Missouri aim to lower cost barriers for residents, nonprofits and businesses that want access to solar energy and to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Ameren Missouri began taking applications today for its $14 million Neighborhood Solar program. Under the program, Ameren will pay the cost of installing and maintaining solar panels for up to seven schools, nonprofits or community organizations.

The Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington University also recently began offering St. Louis and St. Louis County residents discounted rates for installing panels on their properties.

A worker installing a solar panel.
Ameren Missouri

Ameren Missouri plans to install solar farms and storage facilities for three rural Missouri communities. 

If approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission, the $68 million project could provide solar power to as many as 10,000 residents in Utica and Green City, in northern Missouri, and Richwoods, 60 miles southwest of St. Louis. The three cities are at the end of 20-mile transmission lines and often experience long power outages.

A worker installing a solar panel.
Ameren Missouri

Although Jasper Swindle was working in a coal mine by Wyoming’s border to Montana three years ago, the Missouri native said he was curious about what it would be like to work “on the other side, for once.”

He was particularly interested in installing solar panels.

“Even when I was a coal miner, I always thought it was cool how you can harness the power of the sun,” he said.

This array of solar panels on top of a building helps power the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.
File photo | Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association

Mayor Lyda Krewson signed the Sierra Club’s “Mayors For 100 Percent Clean Energy” pledge on Tuesday, signaling her commitment to helping the city some day becoming completely reliant on renewable energy. 

In signing the pledge, Krewson joins the mayors of more than 200 cities — including Cincinnati, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City — who have expressed their support of renewable energy as the Trump administration actively rolls back regulations such as emissions limits for power plants.

“We’ve got to look out for generations to come,” Krewson said. “I wish we all have understood that 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. But we’re here today, so we do what we can today.”

The Sierra Club hopes action at the local level will result in grassroots changes that will slow the effects of climate change.

Microgrid installed two solar arrays at Busch Stadium.
Microgrid Energy

The 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels President Donald Trump announced this week could hurt Missouri's solar companies.

Prices of imported solar panels already are rising as companies want to buy them before the tariff takes effect, said Steve O'Rourke, vice president of business development at St. Louis-based Microgrid Energy.

The price of solar panels has been in flux since last fall, when the U.S. International Trade Commission found that imports hurt two domestic manufacturers and recommended a tariff to protect them. However, the U.S. solar industry imports 80 percent of its solar products, mainly from China.

Tesla installed a 200-kilowatt solar array to power the Hospital del Niño in Puerto Rico.
Tesla

About a month ago, PJ Wilson arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where 3.4 million people were left without power after hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Wilson, the former director of Renew Missouri, noticed immediately that many residents were suffering from depression, after having lost their jobs or not being able to reach loved ones by phone. 

Among the projects available for loans through GreenHELP is installing solar energy panels.
Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association

The solar industry is employing more people in Missouri, according to a report that was released this week by a renewable energy nonprofit.

The Solar Foundation reported that Missouri added more than 500 jobs in the industry in 2016, a 28 percent increase over the previous year. Most of the jobs are based in the St. Louis area, followed by Jackson, Texas and Greene counties. Clean energy advocates attribute this growth to plummeting costs of solar to consumers and rising public awareness.

Provided by Solar Roadways

Roads paved with solar panels may sound futuristic, but people soon will walk and maybe even drive on them in Missouri. 

The Missouri Department of Transportation recently announced plans to build a walkway with solar panels at the historic Route 66 welcome center in Conway, Mo., which is about 180 miles southwest of St. Louis. Electricity generated from the panels would power the welcome center.  The pilot project will examine how feasible it is to use the technology before the department considers putting it on more roads and sidewalks.

The Sierra Club is appealing to Ameren shareholders in an attempt to prompt the utility to move away from coal-based energy.

The organization has submitted a resolution to shareholders calling for at least 30-percent wind and solar sourced energy by 2030 and at least 70-percent by 2050.

Solar panels are showing up more often on farms. File foto from Fickr
David Goehring | Flickr

A solar power project slated for East St. Louis is waiting on the Illinois General Assembly to pass specific legislation so it can get funding to move forward.

The Solar Impulse 1 rests in its inflatable hangar at Lambert Airport after landing in St. Louis on June 4, 2013.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Two years ago, we reported on a solar plane that touched down in St. Louis on its way across the United States.

Now it's successor is on its way around the world.

Ameren Missouri

 Updated 12/4/14

Ameren's solar energy center in O'Fallon is now in service. The 19-acre operation includes 19,000 solar panels and is currently generating six megawatts of power to the company's electrical grid.

Among the projects available for loans through GreenHELP is installing solar energy panels.
Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association

(Updated at 10:25 p.m. on Thursday)

A report from the NAACP says Missouri should increase production of renewable power and require utilities to offer energy efficiency programs. 

Accomplishing those goals, the report says, could provide better health, cheaper utility bills and more manufacturing jobs in the state’s urban core.

Solar Plane To Depart St. Louis For Cincinnati Friday Morning

Jun 13, 2013
(via Solar Impulse)

A solar powered airplane that landed in St. Louis last Tuesday is scheduled to depart early tomorrow morning [Friday].

This will be the 4th leg of the aircraft’s cross-continental flight.

Solar Impulse was originally scheduled to fly directly from St. Louis to Washington DC. But because of strong winds the plane will make an additional stop in Cincinnati to allow the team to rest and switch pilots.

The plane’s 12,000 solar cells power it by day while recharging batteries that allow it to fly at night.

(via Solar Impulse)

Updated 3:13 p.m. June 4  with landing   

A one-of-a-kind airplane is en route from Dallas to St. Louis Lambert International Airport. It’s an aircraft called Solar Impulse and it derives all of its power from the sun.

The plane began its cross-continental journey in early May, traveling from San Francisco to Phoenix.

It’s due to arrive in St. Louis around 1 a.m. Tuesday, and our science reporter, Véronique LaCapra, spoke with the Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard earlier today as he was flying the plane.

Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association

The use of alternative energies such as solar and wind is not new though advancements in technology and conversations about the effects of climate change are ongoing.

Many communities, including some in the St. Louis area, are making a big commitment to going green and utilizing solar energy with the encouragement of the Environmental Protection Agency.  The Green Power Community Challenge includes Clayton and Creve Coeur.

Host Don Marsh led a discussion about the commercial and residential use of solar energy.

via Solar Impulse

St. Louis will be a pit stop for the first solar-powered flight across America. It was announced Tuesday that Lambert Airport is one of five airports selected for Solar Impulse's cross-country flight.

"We are the city forever linked to Charles Lindbergh nearly 90 years ago," St. Louis mayor Francis Slay said. "This year we recognize that there are new milestones and advances to witness, and St. Louis will be part of that inspiring story."

Appeals Court Upholds Mo. Renewable Energy Rules

Nov 20, 2012
Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association

A state appeals court has upheld regulations implementing Missouri’s renewable energy standard.

Kevin Gunn chairs the Missouri Public Service Commission, the state regulatory agency that developed the regulations (4 CSR 240-20.100).

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 21, 2012 - Driving past Civil Life Brewing Co. on a sunny afternoon, the flash of reflected sunlight can be distracting. A glance back at the year-old brewery in the Tower Grove South neighborhood of St. Louis reveals the light's source: an array of 106 solar panels blanketing the brewery's south-facing roof, shining in the sunlight.

This array of solar panels on top of a building helps power the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.
File photo | Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association

Missouri solar energy companies are calling for Congress to extend a federal tax grant for renewable energy.

The 1603 Treasury Program lets solar, wind, and other renewable energy developers take an existing 30 percent tax credit as a cash grant, instead.

The executive director of the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association, Heidi Schoen, says the tax grant program has driven investment in renewable energy projects nationwide.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 8, 2011 - Those solar panels that are beginning to appear on the roofs of homes and offices in the St. Louis area may turn out to be a cool idea in more ways than one. A study published in this month's issue of Solar Energysays the panels can produce the unintended but welcome benefit of making buildings a little cooler during the summer. This is in addition to widely mentioned justifications of turning to solar energy to lower carbon emissions and cut heating costs.

Among the projects available for loans through GreenHELP is installing solar energy panels.
Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association

A Cole County judge has set aside his earlier ruling that declared solar rebates in Missouri to be unconstitutional.

The rebates were part of a renewable energy ballot initiative passed by Missouri voters in 2008.

Circuit Judge Daniel Green’s initial ruling in June stated that the $2 per-watt solar rebate was essentially a seizure of private property from St. Louis-based Ameren Missouri.  But he has temporarily vacated that ruling to allow other interested parties to file briefs in the case.

Moonrise Hotel's lunar sign to run on solar source

Apr 28, 2011
(via Flickr/Michael R. Allen)

Solar panels will soon help brighten the night a little in the Delmar Loop in St. Louis.

The Moonrise Hotel announced today that they'll be installing solar panels to power not only the illumination and rotation of the moon perched atop its building, but also operations in the Rooftop Terrace Bar.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 24, 2011 - Financial incentives from the federal government and local power companies make 2011 a good time for Missourians consider solar energy. The Missouri Clean Energy Initiative, passed overwhelmingly in 2008 as Proposition C, requires that 15 percent of the state's electrical power come from renewable sources by 2021.