Program works to reduce costs for those looking to switch to solar energy

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ST. LOUIS – It’s summertime and the air conditioners are humming. That means utility bills are going up for many, but not for those who have signed up for Grow Solar.

“It’s not just about getting solar in your home,” said Katherine Golden, sustainability education manager at the Earthways Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden. “It’s also about learning about energy efficiency and conservation and how that factors into overall your utility bills now that you have solar in your home.”

Offered by the EarthWays Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Grow Solar St. Louis works to help residents and small business owners access more affordable pricing on solar panel installation through group-buy.

“The basic concept of group-buy is that the more people who participate in the program the better the discount for everyone,” Golden said.

Those interested get started by attending a virtual power hour where they learn the basics. That’s what Kara Manley and her family did last year.

“I contacted Grow Solar and they were just right on it,” she said. “They wanted to come out, make an assessment, and they made everything really easy.”

After getting all their questions answered, her family decided to install enough solar panels to produce 40 percent of their electricity.

“He gave us a very good estimate of what our bill would look like,” Manley said. “We had them installed in February and we’re just now starting to see a pattern emerging as far as what we’re paying monthly for the solar panels and the electricity and he was spot on. And that is very reassuring for me that we made the right decision.” 

Grow Solar St. Louis follows the success of Grow Solar Metro East, which began in 2016. The program is now open to homeowners in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County in Missouri and Calhoun, Madison, St. Clair, and Monroe counties in Illinois. The goal is to help people come together to make a difference.

“We believe in helping preserve and protect plants and their environment by thinking about human actions and what we do that might impact clear air, clean water, and clean soil,” Golden said.

In 2019, project costs after incentives and rebates ranged from $6,600 for one array producing less than 4 kilowatts to around $28,000 for two arrays producing more than 10 kilowatts of power.

While Grow Solar is more for homes and small businesses, Renew Missouri offers a similar innovative called Renew STL Solar which helps larger businesses, municipalities, hospitals, and schools install solar at competitive rates. 

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