By SHERI GASSAWAY
The new IKEA store at I-64 at Vandeventer Ave. boasts the largest solar panel rooftop in the state, and a women-owned, IBEW Local 1 contractor was at the helm of the project.
Aschinger Electric, of Fenton, installed the retailer’s 259,000-square-foot solar array, which is comprised of a 1.28-megawatt system built with more than 4,000 panels. It will produce about 1,780,000 kWh of electricity annually for the store located in St. Louis’ Cortex Innovation District.
Aschinger is a fourth-generation, family-owned electrical contractor that has been in business for 75 years, said Emily Martin, Aschinger’s president. The company got the call about the project last spring and began work in June.
“We’re excited to be a part of IKEA and its brand name,” Martin said. “Everyone can see it when they pass by on Interstate 64. We’ve done many solar panel jobs in the past, but nothing of this size and scope.”
DIVERSE WORKFORCE ON THE PROJECT
Aschinger partnered with X-Cell Electric, a minority-owned IBEW Local 1 contractor, on the solar roof project. St. Louis City required that 25 percent of workers on the job be minorities and that 20 percent be city residents.
“We blew away the city’s diversity requirements,” Martin said. “We had 42 percent minority workers on the job, and 25 percent city residents. We were proud to provide such a diverse workforce.”
BENEFIT OF SOLAR ENERGY
The solar rooftop will produce about 1,780,000 kWh of electricity annually for the store – that’s the equivalent of providing electricity for 169 homes each year or to reducing 1,227 tons of carbon dioxide, which is equal to the emissions of 258 cars.
Joseph Roth, an IKEA spokesperson, said that the installation of the solar panels atop the new store was another exciting and sustainable commitment to establishing IKEA in St. Louis.
“IKEA strives to create a sustainable life for communities where we operate, and IKEA St. Louis contributes to this goal with Missouri’s largest rooftop solar array,” Roth said.
Aschinger Electric wasn’t the only union contractor on the IKEA job – the entire project was built by union hands, according to Jeff Aboussie, secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council. S.M. Wilson served as the general contractor.
“The project generated about 500 much-needed jobs in the construction industry,” Aboussie said. “While we didn’t negotiate the contract, we certainly spoke for and lobbied for it since it was a recipient of tax-increment financing funds.”
IKEA HAPPY WITH CONSTRUCTION PROGRESS
IKEA officials say they were very pleased with the progress of the construction at the site. They set a Sept. 30 opening date for the St. Louis store, and that milestone was met.
“We were thrilled with how smooth the construction process was for our St. Louis store,” Roth said.
ABOUT IKEA ST. LOUIS
The 380,000 square-foot Swedish home furnishings store is situated on 21 acres along Interstate 64 at Vandeventer Avenue. It’s the company’s first store in St. Louis and its 41st location in the United States.
The store, which created 300 jobs for the St. Louis area, features 10,000 exclusively designed items, 50 inspirational room-settings, three model home interiors, a supervised children’s play area and a 450-seat restaurant serving Swedish specialties as well as American dishes.