Missouri is getting serious about cleaning up its power supply. Currently, more than 83 percent of the state’s electricity production is powered by coal, followed quickly by nuclear power (11.4 percent), hydroelectric (3 percent) and natural gas (1.6 percent).
Coal is expensive to import; the state spends $635 million annually to bring it in from Wyoming, which amounts to approximately $3,000 per person per year.
Missouri has significant deposits of coal, but its high sulphur content precludes it from being used for this purpose. And, as a source of power, coal is fairly inefficient, too, capturing less than 35 percent of its available energy during the electricity generation process. Coal also produces significant quantities of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate and environmental issues. Missouri is ranked 13th in the nation for coal consumption.
Reducing the carbon footprint
In terms of reducing its carbon footprint, Missouri has invested more than $700 million dollars since 2005 on projects that reduce greenhouse gases. At the same time, it has established Renewable Energy Standards that require use of renewable energy sources in the amount of 5 percent of total capacity in the years 2014-2017; 10 percent in years 2018-2020 and 15 percent in each year beginning 2021. Accordingly, Missouri is working hard to catch up with the rest of the country in terms of development of its renewable energy resources.
Investing in renewable energy sources
The Renewable Energy Standard also requires that up to 2 percent of the 15 percent energy production power source (2021 capacity) come from renewable sources. As a renewable resource, solar power now accounts for less than 1 percent of the state’s energy source, so there is much to be done to comply with the standard. In 2014, the state installed 73MW in solar electric capacity, which ranked it 11th in the nation for that year. Overall, Missouri now has 115 MW of solar electric capacity, which ranks it 18th in the country.
The solar industry employs more than 2,500 Missourians and provides electricity to 12,000 homes. Investments in the industry grew by more than 60 percent in 2014, when $187 million was spent installing and managing solar power production capacity. Anheuser-Busch has joined the ranks of solar energy converts and installed a 25MW photovoltaic system at its Bridgeton facility.
In late 2014, Missouri launched its first utility-sized solar power generation plant at the O’Fallon Renewable Energy Center in St. Charles County. Generating 5.7 MW, the plant now adds solar-generated electricity to the rest of its supply that powers Ameren Missouri’s 1.2 million customers.
The solar array includes more than 19,000 panels and took less than a year to construct. Ameren uses two primary types of solar technology (monocrystalline and polycrystalline), which are either fixed to a rooftop or installed on trackers. The trackers move with the sun, to maintain optimal exposure, which increases both the efficiency of the solar cells and the maintenance costs.
Ameren has plans to increase its use of solar power for its customers and offers Solar Energy Lesson Plans for students in middle and vocational schools.
Costs coming down; incentives reduce them even more
For home and business solar power systems, costs of equipment have come down substantially in the past few years, dropping by 45 percent since 2010. The new standard encourages entry into the industry by offering financial incentives to businesses and homeowners who move quickly to purchase solar equipment. Although now fully committed and no longer available, the Missouri Solar Power Rebate program was very popular as it offered an excellent incentive of up to $2 per Watt of installed capacity. The state demonstrated its commitment to solar energy by committing more than $91 million dollars to those rebates for purchase and installation of solar power systems, and that capacity was filled by the end of 2013. However, there is a queue of applications that may be eligible as earlier projects are canceled or removed, so seeking a rebate may still be an option.
Missouri does offer “Net Metering,” a system that lets small solar electric systems send excess electricity back into the grid to be used by other utility customers. The “sale” is actually a credit on the home’s or business’ power bill and reduces the monthly cost of electricity for the site. Right now, inspections for net metering purposes are conducted within 30 days for applications for less than 10kW net metered systems and 90 days for systems that intend to generate more than 10kW.
Missouri also allows a personal tax deduction for installation of energy efficient systems, including solar electricity systems. The deduction (up to $1,000 per return or $2,000 total) applies to a variety of technology equipment, and also energy audits and the equipment installed at the recommendation of those audits. Photovoltaic cells and systems are included technologies.
The federal government also offers a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of installation of solar electric systems. The credit is available for systems installed before Dec. 31, 2016, when the credit is scheduled to end. Congress can act to extend the incentive past that date.
Missouri is revving up its commitment to renewable energy. Solar power systems offer renewable energy in the form of consistent, reliable electric service that has zero impact on the environment. You can join the state in its effort to reduce its overall carbon dependence, and reduce the cost of lighting your home, by installing a solar electric system in your home or business.
Missouri is among the states where RGS Energy provides solar energy system installation. To find out how solar energy could power your home, visit www.rgsenergy.com.