The Meramec Valley R-III School District will join the growing number of districts that use solar energy to reduce energy costs.

Following a recent uptick in Missouri school districts that are pursuing solar panel equipment leases, the district maintenance and business office began a study of the structural needs of solar panels and possible savings.

The study, district officials said, was an attempt to take advantage of a short-lived rebate offer from Ameren Missouri.

Ameren announced that it would accept applications through Dec. 31, 2013, on a first-come, first-serve basis for a total of $91 million in rebate funds, almost half of which was already allocated.

The rebate is to existing customers for the installation of net metered photovoltaic (PV) systems on their properties.

Ameren filed notice in October 2013 that it would rebate the maxim amount permitted under Missouri law in early 2014.

Meramec Valley sent out requests for proposals to provide the panels and four solar providers responded: Microgrid Solar, St. Louis; F.E.E.D. International, Berger; Brightergy, St. Louis; and StraightUp Solar, St. Louis.

At the Nov. 20 meeting, the school board approved an agreement with Straight-Up, St. Louis, to install panels on six district buildings for a 60-month term beginning June 30, 2014.

The installation would reduce the district’s annual electric costs by an estimated $140,000 over 10 years.

Currently, the district spends $465,000 a year for electricity. The total estimated savings would be $225,000. Estimated cost of the lease over 10 years is $85,000.

There is no upfront cost to the district to participate in the rebate.

The six sites for the solar panels will be determined following engineering studies of the buildings. The district currently has 21 meters at 14 sites.

Superintendent Randy George said the 60-month term had advantages over longer lease agreements.

“We like the 60-month agreement because we wonder how solar will change and what roofs will look like in 20 years,” George said.