Sturgeon Finalizes Solar Panel Agreement

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STURGEON - Mayor Gene Kelly of Sturgeon signed a lease agreement December 12 for the installation of solar panels on the city's municipal building and the recreation center.

Solar panels are panels that absorb sunlight as a source of energy for generating electricity or heating.

The city of Sturgeon has gone back and forth discussing details with the solar panel leasing company Brightergy since September. Brightergy leases public entities solar panels for a set price each month, and it also takes care of maintenance, installation and paperwork.

"The concerns we had of course were what would happen if we had a storm to knock it out or damage the building or if they go out of business. So we've been working on an agreement," said Mayor Kelly.

Kelly said the recreation center committee had reservations about signing the lease and wanted to make sure the agreement between Brightergy and the city was clear before signing. He said the most difficult part about the process was getting everyone to agree that this was the way to go.

"There's people concerned with what if this company goes out of business, what happens then? We got a pretty, like 30 page agreement we got put together so it's different concerns people had," Kelly said.

This case was similar to the Missouri Rural Water Association in Ashland where the city of Sturgeon got the idea from.

"We were approached by a company called Brightergy back in April and they had a rather unique proposition," said John Hoagland, the vice president of the association.

Although Hoagland thought adding the solar panels was a good idea, several of the association's board members had their doubts.

"My board looked at it for a couple of months. I had some very skeptical board members. It almost sounded too good to be true in some respects cause basically we do a 20 year lease on the system," Hoagland said. "We pay a lease payment to Brightergy and that offsets the electrical cost of the electrical generation that we produce here at the facility."

After five months, the board approved the leasing agreement and by mid-September, Brightergy installed its solar panels on the south and west side of the association's roof. Then on November 16th, the Missouri Rural Water Association was given its final approval to turn the solar panels on.

Along with saving money on it's electricity bill, the association also offers the option of leasing solar panels to its members, like the city of Sturgeon.

"We have about a 900 member system around the state of Missouri. Those are small water and waste water utilities and they also through this program are able to lease [the] system for themselves and hopefully save them on cost and also help them to become a bit more green," Hoagland said.

For Sturgeon, this is another step in going green and saving the city money.

"It'll save the rec center about a $100 a month and it'll save about $40 a month here," Mayor Kelly said. "So that's a pretty good percentage. It's supposed to save 77% of the total light bill and part of that money goes to the solar panel each month and then the rest of it comes, and we save off our light bill."