St. Clair R-XIII

If the St. Clair R-XIII School District would convert to solar energy to help power its buildings, it could save more than $1 million in electrical costs over a 30-year period.

That was one of the messages the local board of education was given during its September meeting as a pair of companies gave presentations centering on  the energy alternative.

Superintendent Mike Murphy has been exploring ways for the district to save money and be more energy-efficient. One option would be for the R-XIII schools to turn to solar power.

“I’m very excited about this concept,” Murphy told board members before the two companies pitched their product. “My intent for now is to listen to the proposals, reflect on the presentations and numbers and vote on this in October.”

Representatives from Brightenergy and Missouri Solar Apps took the board members and administrators through options and discussed solar energy as a reliable and effective way to power the school district and save it money at the same time.

Options for the district to consider are whether to lease or purchase the solar equipment. A lease would require significantly less money up front but also would produce less savings in the long run.

Murphy said he has discussed using solar energy with Tom Parks of R&R Ace Hardware, who earlier this year converted his energy source to solar using Missouri Solar Apps. Parks said he has noticed immediate savings.

The St. Clair Health Mart Pharmacy also is converting to solar energy.


With Brightenergy, information stated a monthly lease payment of $1,550 ($18,600 annually) with an 8.9 cents-per-kilowatt-hour rate would produce a first-year utility savings of $9,830.

With a varying kilowatt rate that allows for annual increases, the 20-year savings is estimated to be $527,405.

The company also stated that through the lease, the district could start generating solar energy without upfront costs and would feature a fixed monthly payment.

“You simply pay a low monthly lease payment that will be less than the cost you would have paid the utility company for the generated electricity,” the presentation stated.

It also stated that since Brightenergy owns the system, it would handle all maintenance.

At the end of the lease, the district would have the option to purchase the solar array.

According to Brightenergy, a client can lock in its electric rate for the term of the lease.

Missouri Solar Apps

If the school district opted to purchase the energy system through Missouri Solar Apps, information stated it could save as much as $1.28 million in energy costs over 30 years.

However, the upfront cost to purchase the solar panels would be $120,000.

The leasing option through this company would cost $9,600 annually ($800 monthly) and produce a first-year savings of $14,250. Over 20 years, the cumulative savings would be $148,190.

According to the company, the district would recapture its costs in about six years.

Missouri Solar Apps also put together a lighting system purchase agreement that showed St. Clair could save about $76,000 a year in electricity costs if it replaced most of its lights throughout the district to more energy-efficient bulbs. The cost to make the changes would be $378,000, which computes to about a five-year cost payback time.

Kilowatt rates would vary.

Rebates from Ameren Missouri would be applied in each case.

The solar panels would be placed on the roofs of the school buildings.

R&R Ace Hardware

In July, R&R Ace Hardware took the initiative to become the first business in St. Clair to invest in solar electricity and energy-efficient solutions.

Working with Missouri Solar Applications, store owners Tom and Patti Parks said they are expecting a 10 to 25 percent rate of return on the initial investment and drastically reduced electric bills for years into the future.

R&R Ace has been a part of the St. Clair community for 81 years.

“The biggest motivator for our decision to install solar was a desire to go greener, while also taking advantage of the opportunities to save money in regard to our energy expenses,” Tom Parks said. “It was very important to me that this move be financially feasible.”