Region Welding is the first local company to utilize solar panels to provide electricity, and take advantage of Ameren Missouri renewable energy credits.

There were solar panels installed last week, which will provide about 33 percent of the energy at the business.

Region Welding owner Dan Donner said he learned about the solar project and incentives through Brightergy, a commercial solar company based in Webster Groves.

“I had always been interested in checking into it, and then I found there was a lot of incentives and we couldn’t go wrong,” he said.

He noted that it was both the incentives and using a cleaner energy that steered him toward using the solar panels.

According to Patrick Attwater, a commercial solar developer with Brightergy, there are 100 panels on the roof of Region Welding.

He said that the Ameren program is open to anybody “with a roof and utilities.

“This is a big benefit to small business owners,” said Attwater. “They get over half of their system paid for with a rebate.”

Ameren Missouri offers a $2/watt rebate for up to $50,000 to customers installing solar panels. Rebates are issued to qualifying Ameren Missouri account holders for a specific solar project.

To qualify, customers must have installed a new solar system or expanded a solar system after Jan. 1, 2010; have an electric retail account that is in good standing with Ameren Missouri; and obtain a fully executed net metering agreement with Ameren Missouri to receive the rebate.

Customers of Ameren Missouri may enter into a standard 10-year contract to sell Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECS) to the utility.

That means that any excess energy produced through solar panels at Region Welding can be sold back to Ameren in exchange for energy credits.

“This is going to pay for itself within three years,” Attwater said. “They will pay three years’ worth of electricity and get 30 years for free.”

According to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) law, 15 percent of all energy produced by 2021 must be renewable, including solar power.

To hit that mark, the state offers tax exemptions, including sales tax exemption and a tax write-off, according Donner.

According to Attwater, there are major “green” benefits to solar power.

Other sources of electricity are damaging to the environment, while solar power is inexpensive.

“You are getting it from a free source, the sun,” he said.

Attwater noted that there are no moveable parts on the solar panels, and very little maintenance required.

“There is very little that can go wrong — very little risk,” he said.

Attwater said solar panels utilize energy on cloudy days, and into the evening while the sun is not as bright.

Snow slides easily off of panels, and the panels usually are located where the roof gets the most sun — which means snow will quickly melt and panels will resume producing electricity. Solar panels also are designed to be hail resistant, but Brightergy offers a warranty for large hail, Attwater said.