Solar panels will power Clayton

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — The St. Louis County town of Clayton is embarking on a big commitment to going green — a $1.1 million solar energy project that will provide electricity for the new police station and its parking garage.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/xhjCjm) reported that it will be among the largest solar-powered projects for any St. Louis-area public building.

A $13.9 million renovation is under way for a building that will house the police station, municipal court and other tenants. Work is expected to wrap up no later than early next year.

The solar array will be mounted on an elevated steel structure on top of the parking garage. Silicon panels will produce 105.6 kilowatts of electricity — enough to supply 10 houses, providing all of the power for the garage and some for the police station.

A federal stimulus grant is providing $661,500 of the $1.1 million the city is spending on solar energy. A $100,000 reimbursement is provided by the utility company Ameren through its alternative energy program.

"Obviously, the grant assistance also was a key component in helping us make the decision," city manager Craig Owens said.

The remainder of funding comes from a bond issue. Voters approved a property tax increase of 12 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation for 20 years to pay off a bond issue for the police station.

Clayton is committed to being "a regional leader in green energy solutions," Mayor Linda Goldstein said. The city has been designated a Green Power Community by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of only two communities in the Midwest.

"The use of solar on our new police station reaffirms our focus on using the latest technologies to keep us energy efficient," Goldstein said.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Brightergy was selected to run the Clayton project. Susan Brown, a principal for Brightergy, said that after paying the upfront costs, Clayton would not have to pay for energy for the garage and part of the police station for the lifetime of the solar array, about 30 to 40 years.

At least two other St. Louis-area municipalities — Chesterfield and Dardenne Prairie — have run into trouble over the installation of thermal solar energy systems at their city halls, though that technology is different from what Clayton is using.

Chesterfield officials say they had to complete the work themselves. Dardenne Prairie paid $160,000 for equipment for a solar heating and cooling system, but then had a dispute with the installation contractor. The system was never operational and has been dismantled.

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