Dow Chemical to help power Columbia Solar One program

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 | 9:00 p.m. CDT; updated 1:53 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 23, 2010

*This story has has been changed to explain how solar energy exceeds the cost cap for renewable energy and must be paid voluntarily by the customer. The story has also been changed to reflect that biogas is a consistent city resource, and not consistently used by customers.

COLUMBIA – Dow Chemical Co. will provide Columbia with about $88,000 worth of roofing shingles capable of converting the sun’s rays to electricity, said a spokeswoman for Columbia Water and Light.

Columbia will construct a roof structure with the shingles at Tiger Lane and Bernadette Drive. The model rooftop will be a prototype for Columbia's efforts to diversify consumer options in renewable energy, said Connie Kacprowicz, spokeswoman for Columbia Water and Light. The rooftop will supply additional electricity to the city’s power grid as part of the Solar One program.

The roofing shingles have solar technology, as found in more traditional solar panels, incorporated into their design.

The city will be responsible for the engineering, design and construction of the mock rooftop, Kacprowicz said. The city has budgeted $66,400 for this project.

*Because the cost of solar energy exceeds a cost cap for renewable resources in Columbia, customers wanting development of solar energy pay for the extra cost through the Solar One program.

Customers willing to pay more will be able to purchase the solar energy in "blocks" of electricity. Households can purchase up to nine blocks of renewable power that currently cost $4 per month. Each block of power provides 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, with the average home demanding 822 kilowatt-hours of electricity monthly, Kacprowicz said.

She said the utility department has looked into a variety of resources for renewable energy. The department concluded that solar power is capable of producing more power for Columbia than other resources such as wind, especially during the summer when the city's electrical use peaks. *Renewable energy from biogas, or gas collected from decaying matter, is Columbia Water and Light's most consistent resource, as opposed to solar and wind energy.

Columbia Water and Light does not yet know how many blocks of power will be made available from the project. If proven to be as productive as traditional photovoltaic panels, the solar shingles would be capable of powering about 17 homes with solar energy alone, Kacprowicz said.

She said the electricity provided to the Solar One program through the shingles will be divided among customers and used in conjunction with traditional power resources.

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