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In symmetrical rows, more than 200 solar panels, tilted and oriented to the south, now cover a large portion of the gymnasium roof of The Pointe at Ballwin Commons.

And while the solar panels won’t meet all The Pointe’s electrical needs, they are expected to lower energy costs enough to pay for the project in about 10 years. In reality, the new installation began saving money as soon as it went into operation because a government grant and a rebate from Ameren Missouri covered the project’s approximately $181,000 price tag.

“The Pointe is a big user of electricity,” said Jerry Klein, Ballwin’s code enforcement supervisor. The location’s power bills total about $121,000 annually, he said, adding that it’s highly unlikely the new system will ever have any leftover energy to sell to Ameren.

However, with an expected usable life of 25-30 years, the 60.84 kilowatt (kW) array will be lowering the city’s electricity bills well into the future. In addition, the energy generated saves the burning of 70,000 pounds of coal annually, according to StraightUp Solar of St. Louis.

StraightUp Solar was awarded the bid in July to install the system and faced an Aug. 31 deadline for completing the project so the city would qualify for the government grant funds. Klein said work was completed and the necessary paperwork turned in on Aug. 29.

As earlier reported, there was some concern at the July 16 Board meeting that the deadline for grant funds would not be met. At that meeting, Board members called into question the city’s bid process and questioned whether the project could be rebid. Klein answered those concerns, saying: “If we don’t take this bid, we have no time to rebid this.”

The system installed is larger than the 40 kW project the city initially figured it could afford in light of funds it expected from the government grant and Ameren. However, lower-than-expected installation costs enabled Ballwin to go with a bigger project.

The solar panel array at The Pointe is the second such system Ballwin now has. A smaller 8 kW installation earlier was placed on the roof of the city’s government center building on Manchester Road.

Commissioned last December and also funded by a federal stimulus program grant administered by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the government center installation was handled by Brightergy Solar Solutions of Webster Groves. The grant was obtained through a joint application with the city of Manchester, which also installed a system at its public works building at 800 2nd St.

Posted 10/01/12 1:01 pm by Jim Erickson on NewsMagazineNetwork. com