St. Clair Still Eyes Seat at Solar Game Table - The Missourian: Local News

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St. Clair Still Eyes Seat at Solar Game Table

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 6:00 am

As St. Clair decides whether to warm up to the solar energy alternative, additional companies are pitching their services to the board of aldermen.

Last week, Missouri Solar Apps became the latest solar provider to court St. Clair as company representative Ben Schacter presented a plan for officials to consider.

Other firms in the game are Microgrid Solar and SunVes.

In order to qualify for Ameren Missouri tax rebates, the city must be on board by the end of the year and agree to use solar energy for at least 10 years.

Missouri Solar Apps already is partnering with R&R Ace Hardware, St. Clair Health Mart Pharmacy and the St. Clair Fire Protection District in providing 25-kilowatt solar arrays to produce the alternative energy source and cut down on utility bills in the process.

Schacter presented two options to the city on Monday with the difference being whether to use American or foreign solar panels. Both options use 20-year lease purchase agreements.

“It’s a fantastic deal,” Schacter said of either option.

The American panel plan would cost the city an annual payment of $2,200, while using foreign panels would cost $1,740 each year for the 20 years.

The projected annual energy production would be guaranteed at at least 96 percent during the duration of the agreement. After the 20 years, the city can purchase the equipment at “fair market value,” extend its lease with Missouri Solar Apps, or opt to end using the panels. Buyout options also are available after five and 10 years, Schacter said.

Both the American and foreign units are projected to save almost $3,000 a year in utility costs annually. After 20 years, that savings could add up to more than $128,000.

The projections take into account a 7 percent annual utility price increase. The city could use as many as five 25-kilowatt arrays — on city hall, the wastewater treatment plant, the community center and two pump stations. Costs and savings would be multiplied by the number of units used.

Microgrid Solar

In late October, Troy Libbra of Microgrid Solar discussed his company’s solar possibilities with the city. Microgrid has inked a contract with the St. Clair R-XIII School District on a 10-year lease purchase agreement that included six 25-kilowatt solar arrays.

The city’s lease agreement with Microgrid that currently is on the table would be for six years, but the city would only have to make payments on the 25-kilowatt array for five years.

After that, Microgrid would donate the solar unit to the city to continue to use.

Under the terms of the agreement, Microgrid would handle all installation and maintenance of the system during the lease time frame. After it expires, any maintenance or repairs would be the city’s responsibility.

The proposal calls for a $2,000 annual payment for five years for each 25-kilowatt array, starting whenever the unit would be installed and in use, which probably would be in late spring 2014. The company guarantees a 95 percent performance guarantee for the duration of the contract.

During the sixth year, ownership of the array would be transferred to St. Clair. From then on, the city would be responsible for it.

According to figures presented by Libbra, over the six years of the lease, the city is projected to save about $13,000 in utility costs. Over 25 years, the savings could top $142,000.

The projections take into account a 5 percent annual utility escalator.

Libbra also said over 25 years, the city should expect less than a 20 percent degradation in efficiency.

A representative from SunVes was not present to present the company’s proposal.

Proceed

Later during Monday’s meeting, the board decided it wanted to continue exploring the solar energy option and directed Childers to recommend the best proposal for the city to consider.

“I definitely would like to proceed,” Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate said.

The other three aldermen agreed.

“We will negotiate with these companies on the best possible proposal and price for us and come back to you with a recommendation,” Mayor Ron Blum said.

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