Looking to save money on energy bills, M&R Plating, Inc. decided to go solar powered.

Instead of placing a few panels on the roof of the building, M&R Plating went big, installing hundreds of panels to help reduce energy costs.

Outside of M&R Plating’s offices at 303 Westlink Industrial Drive, sits a field of solar panels. Michael Schweich, M&R management, said the system contains between 400 and 500 panels.

“StraightUp Solar said it was the biggest in the state of Missouri,” Schweich said.

StraightUp Solar began the installation last October. Schweich said everything was done and the panels were powered up and running a few weeks ago.

Schweich said M&R was told it could expect a 15 to 20 percent reduction on energy bills with the new system. With the system having just been turned on, Schweich said it was still too early to see any results.

Schweich said the total system cost between $400,000 and $500,000.

“It wasn’t cheap,” Schweich said.

Because of assorted deals that came with upgrading to solar, M&R’s contribution was close to $200,000, Schweich said.

He said Ameren paid for a significant portion of the project.

“We expect it to pay for itself in 12 years,” Schweich said.

M&R Plating was trying to find ways to reduce energy costs and began seeking alternatives.

“We were looking at ways to cut our natural gas and energy costs,” Schweich said. “Solar was probably the best way for electrical.”

A salesman from StraightUp Solar told M&R about the benefits from both Ameren and the federal government.

Ameren offers a solar rebate program that pays up to $2 per watt.

Because of Ameren’s rebate system, Schweich said it didn’t make sense for M&R to start small.

“We went with the biggest one we could do,” Schweich said.

By building a big system, Schweich said the company is spending a lot of money now to save more money later.

“The cheapest for us was to do it all at once,” Schweich said. “That way we got more breaks back from Ameren and the federal government. If we would have waited it would have went from like $2 a kilowatt to $1.50.”

After being sold on solar, M&R needed to figure out what system to install.

Since the panels were installed, M&R plating has experienced an uptick of traffic from curious onlookers.

“We get a lot of people drive through here on the weekend looking at it,” Schweich said.

Not only are people around town interested in checking out the panels, but Schweich said clients want to come check them out.

“A lot of our customers are very curious about it and want to come out and see it,” Schweich said.