Renewable energy sources increase in popularity

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COLUMBIA - Solar panels and other forms of renewable energy are increasing in popularity nationwide. In Missouri, a cash-rebate program offers an incentive for people to install solar panels on their home.

Homeowner Steve Scott said his home uses more energy than most in his neighborhood because his law firm is based out of his home office. Scott said the decision he and his wife made to install solar panels a year ago was an easy one.

"It enhances the value of the house, so overall it seemed to be a very good investment to me," Scott said. "Also at the same time, doing some small part to save the planet."

Scott said when his home needs more energy than the panels can provide, the city's power grid reacts.

"When our house is demanding more electricity, the city power grid automatically responds, the electricity flows in response to that demand."

The program also works the other way around. When Scott's home provides additional energy to send to the city's power grid, he gets reimbursed on his bill. The more energy he can produce to help the city, the more savings he has.

Scott said he has had an electricity bill as little as $6.

The latest study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) shows a rise of solar energy at an unprecedented rate over the last 10 years.

Solar energy is not the only type of renewable energy expected to rise over the next few years.

Jeffrey Owens, director of Show Me Solar, said, "I think Missouri's future is about 60 percent wind energy brought in to start with from other states, and about 40 percent solar energy."

Owens said Missouri currently uses wind energy from surrounding states because the state does not have enough steady wind to power homes and businesses on its own.

SEIA's study said by the end of its 10-year study in 2014, there were enough solar installments nationwide to power more than four million homes.

Scott said he and his neighbors who have solar installments did not run into any issues with a homeowners association. Many neighborhood homeowners associations near Columbia did not have a specific covenants that prevents homeowners from installing solar panels.

SEIA's study said increasing popularity has led to a decrease in prices for solar panels. 

Owens said once homeowners can get over the initial cost of installment, they should not see any other down side.

The Columbia Water and Light's 2015 Renewable Energy Report said more than 7 percent of the city's total energy sources in 2014 were renewable.