Runaway Uptake of Community Solar Has St. Louis Utility Planning Big
A stellar community response to a St. Louis-based utility’s launch of a community solar program has renewable energy advocates in Missouri celebrating and the utility planning to expand its renewable energy.
The 100-kilowatt-hour shares in the one-megawatt Lambert Community Solar Project cost an extra US$4 per month, plus a one-time fee of $25. Ameren plans to use the income to finance future investments in solar.
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“Depending on their average power usage, residential customers and small businesses are eligible to buy up to five blocks of energy each month through the program, which is intended to cover no more than half of their overall electricity needs,” reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Less than two months after it started to sell ‘blocks’ of solar energy that customers could subscribe to for an extra charge, Ameren says that it sold out, and is now piling incoming orders onto a wait list for future solar purchases.”
At last count, Ameren Missouri Assistant VP Matt Forck said customers were lining up to buy 328 additional blocks. “We’re very pleased that customers found value in this,” he said. “Not every customer can put solar panels on the rooftop,” and an offset program “is a very economical way to get benefits from solar without accruing those upfront costs.”
Initially, “Ameren was waiting until the Lambert project was fully subscribed before initiating construction,” adds the Post-Dispatch. Now, the facility “looks to start operation this summer”.
Renew Missouri Executive Director James Owen said news of Ameren’s success has left the state’s renewable energy advocates celebrating clear evidence that consumers can influence utility decisions.
“Ameren needs to be putting more and more effort into their solar, because people want this and are willing to pay for it,” Owen said. He predicted the company “will get the message and make solar offsets a fixture of their offerings to customers,” the paper adds, “using this as ‘a starting point’ for ‘more robust solar production.’”
Forck confirmed Ameren’s increasing commitment to solar, telling the Post-Dispatch that with plans for another 100 megawatts of generation in the next decade, the company will eventually welcome “a range of facility types—from smaller ones like the Lambert project, to those like its 19,000-panel, 5.7-megawatt facility in O’Fallon, MO, touted as the largest investor-owned solar array in Missouri,” the paper states.