By TIM ROWDEN
Senior Staff Reporter
When the sun shines at 2300 Hampton Ave., the St. Louis Electrical Industry Training Center is saving money, producing energy and offering apprentice and journeyman electricians a window into new solar technologies.
A crew of IBEW Local 1 electricians from Kaemmerlen Electric company recently installed a solar array on the roof of the training center.
The array – 100 Sharp 23.5 watt photovoltaic solar panels – serves a dual purpose, providing a source for hands-on education and training for apprentices and journeymen electricians, and saving the training center money on its monthly electric bill.
“We’re capturing the sun energy,” said Tim Kelley, superintendent of IBEW Local 1’s Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee. “We’re then taking that energy and using it to help run the building, offsetting our carbon footprint a little by going green.”
Kelley designed the system on the roof of the training center. It’s wired to a computer program that will allow instructors and students to monitor in real time how much energy each panel is producing.
The idea, he said, is not only to provide apprentices and journeymen with first-hand experience with the solar panels, but also to put them in a position to better understand and perhaps even promote similar systems in the field.
“We can bring them up and show them how the interconnection is made, and show them energy production on any given day,” Kelley said. “It’s going to be an integral part of the training here. They can see how the whole system comes together and how it installs and what the requirements are as part of the National Electrical Code.”
Rebates from Ameren and federal tax credits are helping pay for the array. Ameren will pay a $2 per watt rebate to the JATC for every DC watt installed, and any excess energy that is captured will be sent back to Ameren.
Ameren is footing $47,000 toward the $84,840 cost of the system. The JATC is also receiving an $11,352 federal tax credit for installing the green energy system, bringing the total cost to the JATC down to $26,488.
Kelley said the system is expected to reduce the training center’s energy bill by about $156 a month, a savings of about 10 percent per month.
“The nation’s solar industry is growing at a rate of about 40 percent a year, which is awesome,” Kelley said. “It’s giving a lot of our members work.”
In the St. Louis area alone, Kelley said, solar arrays can be found at Walsh & Associates, Parkway schools, Busch Stadium, the Clayton police station and KB Electric, just to name a few.
Kelley expects those numbers to grow, which is good news for IBEW Local 1 electricians.
“Renewable energy, and solar energy especially, is really growing in popularity,” Kelley said. “The thing that really makes it lucrative is the rebate money. Once people start hearing about that, and figuring out what credits they can get, they’ll be all over it.”
Coming soon: To see photos and video of the solar array, go to stlejatc.org.