Kansas City is slated to install solar panels and equipment on 80 city buildings to help meet part of those buildings’ electricity demands. Kansas City Power & Light will team up with Brightergy, a Kansas City solar installer, on the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Fire and police department facilities and many of the city’s community centers are among the candidates to receive these solar upgrades.
The relatively low electricity rates from public utilities have made solar power relatively more expensive in the past, effectively halting the spread of solar energy in the Midwest until now. Average electric rates in Missouri are 9 cents per kilowatt hour compared with 15 cents in California, according to the Energy Information Administration. The solar units to be installed at the chosen sites will supply 2.5 percent of each building’s demand. After the cost of leasing the solar panels, the city will save $40,000 on electricity in the first year, and the annual savings are expected to increase in the future.
Now, because the cost of solar panels has decreased by more than half, the math to justify the economics of solar energy has shifted. In Missouri there is a $2 rebate for each watt of capacity installed plus other federal incentives. The help from Missouri will begin to phase out in 2014, and the federal incentives will start phasing out in 2016, but for now the assistance is covering a large majority of the cost.