For almost two weeks, solar energy has been sold by Columbia Water and Light to its electric customers willing to buy it at $48 yearly subscriptions. The city is selling solar-generated electricity to 32 households and about 125 additional households are on a waiting list.
Two solar collectors have been constructed in the city. One, located on city property off Bernadette Drive and Tiger Lane is generating electricity. Quaker Oats on Route B has also installed a solar collector on its roof, and hopes to begin producing electricity in five to seven days, said Ray Magruder, the health, safety and environmental manager at Quaker Oats.
What: A public meeting to celebrate the construction of Columbia’s two solar collectors, which will provide energy to customers of Columbia Water and Light
When: 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 9
Where: Near the intersection of Bernadette Drive and Tiger Lane, behind the West Ash Street Pump Station
Who: Speakers include representatives from Missouri Solar Applications, Dow Chemical Co., Columbia Water & Light, Quaker Oats and Prost Builders, Inc.
The solar collectors are the result of a program, called Solar One, developed between Columbia and private businesses. The goals of the program are to help the city produce renewable energy, and by 2023, for 1 percent of Columbia’s electricity to be provided by solar energy, according to the Solar One Web site.
Every year, the city has planned to receive 70 100-kilowatt hour blocks from the Bernadette solar collector and the Quaker Oats solar collector, but some customers are buying more than one block, said Connie Kacprowicz, spokeswoman for Columbia Water and Light.
So far, the city has sold 51 of the 70 blocks available from the Bernadette station. The collector at Quaker Oats is expected to provide an additional 70 blocks.
In order to meet the 2023 benchmark, more solar collectors will have to be built, said Vaughn Prost, the chief executive officer at Missouri Solar Applications and president of Prost Builders Inc., who helped to design the solar collector on Bernadette.
At 10 a.m. Thursday, a public event celebrating the construction of these two solar collectors will be held at the Bernadette solar collector location. The event will be held behind the West Ash Street Pump Station.
“After we get these two projects online, we’ll look for other businesses who want to produce solar energy,” Kacprowicz said. “We want to keep the momentum going.”
Kacprowicz said more solar collectors haven’t been built because they are too expensive.
“It costs two to three times as much to produce solar energy as it would for other sources of electricity,” Kacprowicz said. Prost said the price of solar energy will fall as the demand for it increases and the technology behind it becomes more efficient.
“It’s not going to drop (in price) if no one buys into it,” Prost said about the solar energy market. “Competition has to be created in order for the price to drop.”
Prost said the solar collector at Bernadette was donated to Columbia by three businesses: Missouri Solar Applications, Prost Builders Inc. and Dow Chemical Co. Customers receiving electricity from the collector will still pay premiums. Extra premium money will be kept in a city account for solar energy development, Kacprowicz said.
Prost said the collector cost about $50,000 to construct. Premiums will cover the costs of buying electricity from Quaker Oats, and the expenses for upkeep to both collectors.
Both collectors are 5-kilowatt photovoltaic systems. Photovoltaic refers to the process by which energy is taken by the sun and converted into electricity. Prost said the Bernadette array can produce a little over 7,000 kilowatt hours per year. Magruder said the Quaker Oats array can produce around 6,750 kilowatt hours per year.
Once the solar energy is in Columbia’s grid, the city sells it at a premium to its customers as a supplemental form of electricity. The average electric customer uses about 825-kilowatt hours every month, Kacprowicz said.
Prost said the solar collector project he helped develop began about two years ago when a friend of his from MU, Steve Ellebracht, then head of research and development at Dow Chemical Co., asked him if he wanted to work together on a city project. Both had heard about Solar One, Prost said, and they were ready to work on a renewable energy project.
In Columbia, there are 16 million square feet of commercial roofs, Prost said. If a solar collector was put on each commercial roof, the energy produced could provide 12 percent of the city’s electricity needs.
For more information about Solar One go to: gocolumbiamo.com/WaterandLight/Electric/SolarOne.php.