It may not yet be a national leader, but a nonprofit program to implement solar energy systems in Metro East has been expanded across all three of the region’s core counties, with a growing list of local partners.
A project of the Custer, Wisconsin-based Midwest Regional Energy Association, Grow Solar Metro East offers educational meetings, solar implementation assessments and a solar equipment group purchasing program for residents and businesses in Madison, St. Clair and — beginning this year — Monroe counties.
The organization, this year, will work with an expanded range of local organizations to offer one-hour programs — known as “Solar Power Hours” — on the basics of solar energy, according to Peter Murphy, solar program Manager for the MREA.
“The presentation provides folks the information they need to determine whether solar is right for them,” said Murphy.
Local partners now include Lewis and Clark Community College, Madison County Community Development, the Sierra Club, and a group known as the Glen Carbon Cool Cities Committee.
This educational effort has now been endorsed by villages of East Alton, Glen Carbon, Godfrey, Hamel and Maryville, and cities of Alton, Belleville, Collinsville, Columbia and Edwardsville.
Power Hour attendees can qualify for home or business assessments to determine the applicability of solar power application at their buildings.
Those interested in installing solar power systems can then take part in a group purchasing program designed to reduce both the cost of both the cost of professional installation and the solar equipment itself.
The group purchase program is open to both homeowners and renters, as well as business owners, the MREA emphasizes.
Since coming to Metro East in 2017, the Grow Solar program has installed solar systems on 98 properties across Madison and St. Clair counties; producing more than 864 kilowatts of solar power.
Launched originally by the Glen Carbon Cool Cities Committee, the Grow Solar program was soon expanded across Madison County by MCCD, the county’s planning and development agency. By 2018, Grow Solar extended across St. Clair County.
Implementation of the program won the Glen Carbon Cool Cities Committee a Green Cities Award of Achievement Award from the St. Louis Green Business Challenge.
The Glen Carbon committee was established by village ordinance in 2014, as “a committee of citizen volunteers that will develop ideas and take other actions to make the Village a Cool City.”
“Cool City” is a designation developed by a not-for-profit consultancy, known as the Empowerment Institute, to recognize reduction in carbon emissions.
The committee was instituted after the village, in 2012, commissioned standardized Green House Gas Inventory (GHG) by the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) Civil Engineering Department. The GHG inventory found that the village (population: 12,934) emitted 143,967 tons of carbon dioxide in 2011.
Established in 1990, the MREA is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technology Office and a growing list of private foundations.
Though its Grow Solar group purchasing program is still offered mostly in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, the group provides educational or other services in around 200 communities across the U.S.; many in California.
The group has even established a “leaderboard” of area that have made substantial strides towards conversion to renewable energy.
Metro East does not yet make the list, but Grow Solar leaders here are hopeful.
Solar Power Hour presentations over the rest of this summer are set for:
- 6 p.m. July 10, Glen Carbon Police Community Center, 149 N. Main St., Glen Carbon
- 6 p.m. July 17, Belleville City Hall, 101 South Illinois St., Belleville
- 6 p.m. July 18, Old Bakery Beer Company, 400 Landmarks Blvd., Alton
- 6 p.m. July 22, Edwardsville Public Library, 112 South Kansas St., Edwardsville
- 6 p.m. July 22, Lebanon Visitor Center, 221 W. St. Louis St., Lebanon
- 6 p.m. July 24, West Park Bowl, 1101 Valmeyer Road, Columbia
- 6 p.m. Aug. 5, Glen Carbon Police Community Center, 149 N. Main St., Glen Carbon
- 6 p.m. Aug. 7, Belleville City Hall, 101 South Illinois St., Belleville
- 6 p.m. Aug. 12, Edwardsville Public Library, 112 South Kansas St., Edwardsville
- 6 p.m. Aug. 14, Hamel Community Center, 10 Park Avenue, Hamel
- 6 p.m. Aug. 15, West Park Bowl, 1101 Valmeyer Road, Columbia
- 6 p.m. Aug. 19, Old Bakery Beer Company, 400 Landmarks Blvd., Alton
- 6 p.m. Sept. 5, Lebanon Visitor Center, 221 W. St. Louis St., Lebanon
- 6 p.m. Sept. 11, Belleville City Hall, 101 S. Illinois St., Belleville
- 6 p.m. Sept. 18, Hamel Community Center, 10 Park Ave., Hamel
All programs are free and open to the public. More programs may be added to the schedule, the MREA administrators say.
For additional information, see the Grow Solar Metro East web page (growsolar.org/grow-solar-metro-east).