Water and Light begins selling solar energy

Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | 8:12 p.m. CDT; updated 8:59 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Missouri Solar Applications Chief Executive Officer Vaughn X. Prost in front of Columbia's first solar panel on Bernadette Drive. The recently installed panel will allow Columbia residents to receive solar energy for an extra $4 a month on their energy bill.

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.

If you go

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.

Related Articles

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:

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Ray Shapiro October 8, 2008 | 12:38 p.m.

The city should be promoting solar electric roofing panels on all new construction and replacement roofing in the private housing market and incentives for new business construction. Don't let the "electric company" have the monopoly!

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 8, 2008 | 3:16 p.m.

This program is adding 10 kW of capacity to a system with a total peak load of 280 MW. It's about 0.004% of our total electrical need, and it's only on line during daylight.

7,000 kwh is about what the average house in Columbia uses in 9 months.

The electric company has nothing to worry about, ray. At this rate, your great-great grandchildren will still be getting most of their electricity from remote sources.

Unless people do it themselves, it'll never get done. We'll get window dressing like this, and continue to buy power off the grid because it's the cheapest way to do it. The city really has little choice.


(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 8, 2008 | 3:20 p.m.

BTW, somebody got rooked if the Bernadette system cost $50,000. They could have used fewer, larger panels (instead of the Yingli 65 watt panels they used) and gotten the cost down to more like $35-$40,000.

Not a good design, if you ask me.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 8, 2008 | 4:39 p.m.

Mark did you put into them your input when this project was first presented? That would have been the time to put in your input and evaluations not after the fact my friend. Hind sight is always 20/20 didn't you know that?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 8, 2008 | 4:49 p.m.

I didn't see the design, nor was it publicized. This whole project was not widely publicized, other than the fact that Dow Chemical was sponsoring it.

Since there are not a lot of companies doing solar installation right now (here anyway), they were limited in the number of bids they could receive. I suspect that as more people install these systems, it'll become more competitive, and cheaper.

(Or you can do it yourself :-) )


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 8, 2008 | 5:42 p.m.

Hey I'm happy with what they are doing you are the one here complaining it is on you to get up on it not I. You are one griping they spent too :))

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 8, 2008 | 7:23 p.m.

You can be happy with it if you want, because you don't think about where our energy comes from, and how much of it we really use (I won't say "need" because that's a whole other problem).

Do you think they could power Paquin Tower with solar panels arrayed on its roof? Why or why not? If you can't tell me than we shouldn't be having this discussion.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 9, 2008 | 4:27 a.m.

Mark you are clueless as usual on the fact I do not think or care as you so boldly state above. You are the one coming here sniveling in your first post about what they payed not I.
As far as HELPING to power Paquin Tower goes I would think Hi-Tech mini wind generators built around the edge of the roof or even just one on each corner would help alot since the building is so high in the air and there is always a breeze and would be available 24/7 to produce power unlike Solar which depends on sunlight. There could also be Solar panels as well to help with this but I do not know the over all load capacity of the existing roof. Now if you want to talk about a Solar Array of sorts being built into the West and South sides of the building where the sun hits the most all after noon now there is a plausible theory but once again it depends upon the load restrictions of the materials used on the sides of the building and anchoring them in securely.

(Report Comment)
Rachel Ruhlen October 9, 2008 | 7:53 a.m.

Have you seen the windmill farms in Kansas? They are huge, a hundred or more windmills that are 50 stories high. It is impressive. One of these farms can provide a limited amount of power to the residents of one small Kansas town.

That's in western Kansas, where wind is a reliable commodity. That doesn't seem like a realistic alternative energy source to me.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 9, 2008 | 8:39 a.m.

Load capacity is not an issue with your roof. Mini-wind generators (the little 3' diameter jobs) produce 200 watts apiece, or about enough power to run a small refrigerator (when the wind is blowing).

Your roof MIGHT have enough area (this is the determining factor, not load capacity) to power perhaps 10% of that building by the sun, on a good summer day. Covering the west and south sides with thin film panels (which are less efficient), might raise that to 30-40%. That would cost probably 10 million dollars. CHA could never go for it (or anyone else).

The sun (and wind, which is really just another form of solar power) is a very available, but diffuse power source. The technology required to make use of it is inefficient and expensive. We will not see it make a difference in our lifetime.

That's fine, as long as we recognize that. What IS the problem is that people, opposed to centralized power generation, latch onto these things as evidence that we can replace coal and nuclear with solar and wind on a rapid time scale. These people are simply laying the groundwork for future third-world style electrical service.

Chuck isn't concerned with reality. If he was, he'd learn something about how stuff works, rather than ranting on people all day.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 9, 2008 | 10:23 a.m.

Load capacity is an issue with our roof but then again you do not live at Paquin Tower,nor do you talk to the maintenance men daily as I do,nor do you know how much stuff is on our roof already. Why are you pretending to be in the know when obviously you are not. To make yourself look like you might know something because I call you out on your theology or obvious lack of.
Accusing me of not being concerned with reality is going too far Mark. Wasn't it you on the Tribune Forum Board that claims those trace elements of Pharmaceuticals of all types mean absolutely nothing in our drinking water when you still cannot come up with statistics to back up your conjectures and that is a huge nationwide issue that have been proven to cause problems in all laboratory testings with fish and human tissue samples.
If you want to go on a personal attack on this site as well just like you do on almost every thread on the Tribune Forum Board you really should be rethinking your sense of reality. This is not about personal attacks Mark this is about issues and finding sound measures and remedies to alleviate those issues that will be feasible and financially compatible to all involved. This site is not a ground for your personal attacks against me or my points of view on issues. Stick to the issues and not the personal attacks then maybe I might actually have some respect for you but since that will never happen on your part we still have this to look forward too.

I openly apologize to the Missourian readers who have to view all of this as these personal attacks by Mark Mark Foecking started on the Tribune Forum Board when he did not like my honest and up front view points that I post. He has an issue with me and when on the losing end of any debate he can only attack my over all character. He has never met me in person but he thinks he knows all about me. How wrong he is. Once again I apologize to everybody you have to view his personal attacks on this site or any blog,forum board or open forum servicing the Columbia Community.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 9, 2008 | 10:24 a.m.

Rachel Ruhlen correct but the science of wind generators is advancing daily and that is a good thing.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 9, 2008 | 11:37 a.m.

All I know, Chuck, is that to put solar panels up there would add an infinitesimal load to your roof. They are quite light, and have to be spaced far apart so they do not shade each other.

Do you know what that radio tower up there is? I do. And while I haven't been up there personally, I know people who have, and I have a very good idea of what's up there. I have an engineering background, and a good bit of knowledge about how you design a flat roof like that. Snow load adds much more weight to your roof than solar panels would.

I cannot come up with statistics to show whether trace drugs in our water have an effect or not. That is because THAT IS NOT KNOWN WITH ANY CERTAINTY. My issue with you is that you seized upon the presence of these trace drugs, and immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were harmful. There is no hard evidence that they are (or aren't). The studies that showed effects to fish and aquatic life were done in wastewater. Drinking water is completely different (as well it should be).

There's no point in my trying to educate you on anything, because you live in your own little world, where molehills become mountains, and all of us get to hear about it. I'm actually one of the most informed people you've met on these forums. I'm not the only one, either.

When people try to convince you that you're wrong about something, or that one of your "solutions" is impractical, you take it as a personal attack. This is abnormal, manic, excessively emotional behavior. Respond to my points (which you haven't), and maybe we can have more civil discussions. Again, I'm not the only one who has told you that, either.

I'd be glad to stop now. Sorry, all. I just have this issue with ignorance being sold as vision.


(Report Comment)
Jacob Kerner October 9, 2008 | 12:35 p.m.

Paquin towers could be taken off of the grid if they did a few modern renivations. SOLAR, GEOTHERMAL, & WIND would all play a roll. But more things would need to be done to the building for all of this to work. They must rinivate the building and use energy efficient materials along with energy efficient appliances.

Instead of thinking about JUSt solar or JUST wind... its time to take into consideration all of the GREEN elements of this equation. There are allot of variables but there are some constants as well.

Solar only work during the day for obvious reasons. That is why its vital to use wind turbines to collect the wind which typically blow harder at night. Then with geothermal (if available here) you can heat/cool the whole place. So the wind and electric can run the appliances and the geothermal can heat and cool the building.


Jacob Kerner

FYI the ribon cutting event for the solar 1 project was awesome... if you didnt go then you should have

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 9, 2008 | 1:06 p.m.

Mark you still miss so many of the points on these issues because you refuse to acknowledge any opinion but your own just as you accuse me of doing.

Do you realize the velocity of the wind that blows across the top of Paquin Tower when the wind is really ripping through this city? Installing Solar panels as you might suggest would be like installing stationary kites or wind planes to the roof and if the wind really got ripping around they would be just like a huge kite in the wind. A person can have all of the degrees they can buy through school or get the education towards and still not understand common mechanics due to all of their own ego clouding their own judgments of reasoning and being able to have objective views of all issues presented.Such is your case.

Mark on the case studies done with Pharmaceuticals in the nations drinking water those leading scientists doing the studies must know what they are talking about or major news outlets like CNN,USA Today and others would not have published their findings. Once again Mark there is more to this than your view which it seems you will defend even if it makes you look bad. Are you saying the testing those scientists have done in fish and human tissues using drinking water samples are all wrong or is it just you refuse to believe or think about it. Before I did post about this subject on the Trib Board I did go do some deep research into the subject and found this issue quite unacceptable that is why I posted about it and even posted more links verifying the information the original posted presented.

Once again look at your own style of posting when it comes to abnormal, manic, excessively emotional behavior before you go attempting to put a label on anybody Mark.

Mark and I have an issue with so called intelligent citizens saying this or that as fact when it is not so or is better called by it's real name of complacency.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 9, 2008 | 2:01 p.m.


Just for kicks I ran some numbers.

I'm assuming Paquin is about 80 x 80 feet square, and 18 stories (correct me, anyone). 200 units (from CHA). 200 feet high.

Say we use the type of panels I have (and you can see if you're on the Solar Tour :-) ). Mounting the panels at a 40 deg tilt ,we can get about 35 of them in each row, and about 7 rows. This would increase roof loading by roughly 1 psf (snow can be 20), and building side wind loading by less than 1%.

That is 245 170 watt panels, or 41.6 kwh, or about 160 kwh/day.

I'm assuming the each apartment uses about 400 kwh/month (average for a house is 850), so that is 400 x 200 or 80 Mwh/month. The solar array would contribute 160 x 30 or about 5 Mwh/month (6%). It would cost $150,000 plus installation and electronics.

Wind COULD be used at Paquin, but that DOES have a definite wind loading, and large turbines (which are the most efficient) have significant vertical loads on the building as well. They're point loads, as opposed to the distributed loads of solar panels. We'd be doing well to install another 20 kW of wind there without structural modification to the roof (or whole building).

Putting thin film panels on the west and south walls will increase that also greatly, perhaps - that may get us another 400 kW, in fact. However, since the panels would not be at a good angle, their power output would be a good bit less than that. That also would increase system cost by another million or so, for a suboptimal installation. I doubt any installer would recommend that side of building option unless panels got a whole lot cheaper.

It would come down to energy efficiency - if each apartment could be pared down to 100 kwh/month (a pretty severe figure), then a combination of all the things you mention might get Paquin off the grid. But this is the problem with all high density structures. The amount of space on a roof is fine to take one or two stories off the grid, but not 18, and since buildings don't tilt, and track the sun, it is expensive to use vertical walls as solar collectors.

Paquin will be on the grid until it falls down.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 9, 2008 | 2:13 p.m.

lol at Paquin being only 80 x 80 feet and 18 stories. Go get some real figures and then go get the wind shear factors as well,then go get the load specs of the existing roof,the amount of space actually still available,conduit requirements,revamping of all electrical panels,all anchoring requirements needs according to Federal standards and then get the info I may be missing as well then actually talk to some structural engineers who have actually had to do the actual work to install these things that are up there now and then you might have some knowledge of the load that the present roof can carry for what space is left there.
Oh did you know that the windows now being installed had to be all specially designed to accommodate the excessive wind shear the build sustains during high peak times of severe storms per Federal Standards? Bet ya did not know that did ya. Oh and before the Feds actually do any installing on top of Paquin Tower it is quite a long time in coming being they study the issue through to see if it actually cost effective in the long run of the plan.

(Report Comment)
Paq Man October 9, 2008 | 2:35 p.m.

Chuck you drive people nuts here and on the Tribune board. Go away! Find a hobby.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 9, 2008 | 2:40 p.m.

Well, Chuck, what is it? You live there. I know the dimensions of my house. Give me the numbers, and I'll run the numbers again.

I stand by my analysis. I'll change it if I get significantly different numbers. Solar panels are virtually never a loading issue, either by weight or wind load. Prove me wrong. Don't just bluster. Show that I'm wrong, or my analysis is invalid.

Any window for a high rise in this part of the country (or really any) has to be rated for high wind load. That doesn't surprise me at all.

If you're talking about the Feds studying the installation of solar panels, it's not cost effective. At this point, it never is.


(Report Comment)
Nate Birt October 9, 2008 | 8:59 p.m.

Hey, all,
My name is Nate Birt. I'm a teaching assistant here at the Missourian, and therefore a staff member. Would you all be able to provide some links/stats to support your points? We really appreciate the discussion, and would like to continue it. Thanks!

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 9, 2008 | 9:46 p.m.

To Paq Man how about you actually use your real name and nobody says you have to read my comments so get our it.

To Mark the Feds are not going to put solar panels on top of Paquin Tower nor will Paquin Tower get taken off the grid as seems your wish so you can get over it as well. No matter what is posted or presented you would not believe it anyway and you would criticize the information as irrelevant anyway. I am done arguing and dealing with your personal attacks of any kind at all since it is the only thing you know how to do. Find yourself somebody else to argue with from now on.

To Nate Birt just get my email from Jake the web editor here and drop me a line on which links or info you want info on and I'll pass you the info I have been finding. Then you can go do the further research that you obviously want to do.

(Report Comment)
Jacob Kerner October 9, 2008 | 11:08 p.m.


I use indepenedent research to come to my conclusions. I do not base my research off of any particular business or website. This is an indepenedt study only for means of common communication that is not meant to be taken quiet literally. You must be 18 or above to read this material.

(Report Comment)
Jacob Kerner October 9, 2008 | 11:09 p.m.

Has anybody noticed how all of our posts are made excatly at 10 minutes past the hour??? That shows how good we are ;)

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 10, 2008 | 5:20 a.m.

Jacob Kerner that is how I do my own research as well is looking at the over all consensus points of view and not any single site I come across. I will though use site links and quoted information to help show the consensus points of view. Great point you made.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 10, 2008 | 8:45 a.m.


My analysis is a rough, order-of-magnitude estimate to answer the question "Can Paquin Tower be taken off the grid with wind and solar?". It was not meant as a detailed estimate. If I were to do that, I would get plans, visit the site, and talk to the head of maintenance for the building for any special circumstances or future plans.

I get my information from various sites and books. One good one is Outback power has a good forum

I have an MS in engineering, and have taken my own house off the grid using solar power and batteries, doing all design and installation myself. It's on the Solar Tour on the 18th of this month. Contact The Columbia Climate Change Coalition at (573) 443-4717 or (573)818-8938 for more details.

Need more?


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 10, 2008 | 10:26 a.m.

My question is why should Paquin Tower be taken off the grid at all? If you are going to take places off the grid how about you start with City Owned buildings first,then Columbia school District Buildings next then look at all of buildings of the University of Missouri next as between those three entities they use 1 million times more power than Paquin Tower ever would.
You seem to have some vendetta against Paquin Tower Mark as in alot of your posts you talk about cutting Paquin Tower totally out of the City Loop like it is a plague or a plight to the community eye.
I'm just curious on this as it seems to be a constant theme of yours between things posted not only here but on the Trib Board as well.
No this is not some paranoia by far as anybody can go review any and all of your postings where you have talked about Paquin Tower over all.
Not trying to start this back up but I do want it clarified plainly so that all of the citizens of Columbia know just where you stand as far as do you support or do you not support what Paquin Tower represents because you do not talk this way about any other Federally Funded Public Housing Project in this City.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 10, 2008 | 11:55 a.m.

I'm not sure what you're talking about, Chuck. Jacob was the one that suggested that Paquin could be taken off the grid, using wind, solar, and geothermal. My post was to show the difficulties involved in doing that, and was directed to him. Go back and read it.

i have nothing against Paquin Tower. It's a good resource for the disabled, and it makes it easier and more efficient to get them the care that they need, as well as allowing a good bit of mutual support.

I merely point out to you where I disagree with your statements, or your justification for them. I'm sorry, Chuck, but you have a lot of impractical ideas, and I feel I (and other people) should point out the impracticalities of them. I also feel that you could make a productive living for yourself if you could get your emotions under control.

I have nothing against disabled people in general, or the services they need. I'm sorry it looks to you like I'm singling you out. The reality of it is, that you post so much, and make so many grand pronouncements, that someone who is concerned with accuracy and perspective (like me) will take issue with you often.



(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 10, 2008 | 12:46 p.m.

Mark many times on the Trib Board and here as well you have posted to the point of showing your negativity towards Paquin Tower and what it stands for. That is a fact. If I post it is from the real and upfront points of view that you might not be looking at. Everybody looks at all views from different angles and as I have posted many times if you do not like those points of view nobody is forcing you to respond but you continue to many often times as not to the point of posting a negative opinion and there are people who live in this general community who have told me as such too.
You started this little jaunt of yours about myself and Paquin Tower over on the Trib Board and now you bring it here as well which is fine but do not expect me to not respond to your obvious lack of knowledge on any issue concerning Paquin Tower or the over all needs and accommodations of the disabled citizens in this community as a whole.
Truthfully until you have been there and done that you really have nothing but uneducated conjectures of things that you truly do not know the real needs of.

Peace out.

(Report Comment)
Jacob Kerner October 13, 2008 | 9:00 p.m.

hey all.. i had a story published on the "MyMissourian" website about the solar one event that i atteneded earlier this week... all of you fellow Green Freaks come check it out and leave a post... thanks all

(Report Comment)
Allie Dalton March 31, 2010 | 5:04 p.m.

I would like to propose not to hold off until you get enough cash to buy goods! You should just take the <a href="">loan</a> or term loan and feel fine

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 1, 2012 | 3:32 p.m.

CHA decided to upgrade Paquin Tower by digging up its back parking lot and drilling geo thermal and placing individual thermostats in each apartment.
In addition to this expensive venture, (which was supposed to save heating and cooling money in some vague future time), so too to save on their water bill, supposed single flush toilets were installed.
These two uber-expensive ventures followed the already obsolete installation of new electric air conditioning units and the installation of new refrigerator units.
Now here's the rub.
1. The refrigerators have top freezers making it not wheelchair-user friendly. Side-by-sides would have been more appropriate.
2. A/C and heating thermostats were supposed to have reasonable limits, similar to the following.
In reality each individual tenant can set their apartment anywhere from 60 degrees to 120 degrees. (So much for saving money by regulating apartments.)
3. Apparently the asphalt covering job of the parking lot was not done safely enough as there are sink holes beginning to open up in the parking lot. (I'm anticipating reading about a van with handicapped plates being swallowed up when the summer heat takes its toll on that asphalt job.)
4. Single flush toilets don't take care of even normal "dumps." (So goes money down the crapper.)
Conclusion: Vendors make a pretty penny. "Bob the builder" wins. Taxpayers lose.
How can these ventures be sustainable and how can we afford to go "green" if the "green stewards" don't have checks and balances in place during these conversions?
Seems like all they have are blank checks.
Perhaps we need to dismantle HUD and replace it with a system that truly works for everyone. It's not enough just to have a bureaucracy run by lease administrator mentality with political overtones.
("HUD Scandals")

(Report Comment)

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