Farmers Park moves towards solar energy

Published: Sep. 8, 2016 at 5:50 AM CDT
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From the outside, Farmers Park still looks the same but big changes are going on inside some buildings thanks to a new upgrade.

"It's a big deal for us at Farmers Park. As electric prices rise and as the cost of solar comes down, the infrastructure cost of adding solar to the building makes a lot more sense," said Developer Matt O'Reilly.

About 110 solar panels sit on top of Building B inside the development and more are scheduled for installation on top of a new building, which is scheduled for completion this spring.

"What we try to do is size the system to offset the base load of the building or the house meter, which is all of the lighting, common areas, lobbies and the H-VAC that goes into conditioning those spaces which lowers the operating costs of the building," said O'Reilly.

The panels are expected to provide approximately 42,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. Project developers say that reduction in carbon footprint is equivalent to planting nearly 800 trees, taking more than 150 cars off the road, or avoiding 12 rail cars of coal.

"The power of the sun is free and unlimited versus fossil fuels which are extremely damaging in many ways," said O'Reilly.

"That plus the increasing prices of energy and the decreasing price of solar panels themselves is really making it an economically viable alternative for energy production," he explained.

Many other businesses in Springfield and surrounding areas are also starting to embrace this alternative form of energy.

"We've started picking up on our commercial side," said Jennifer John-Meyer, Community Relations Director for Missouri Sun Solar.

"More and more business owners realize that they have enough to worry about with owning their own business. The crazy high electric bills I've seen come in from some of these businesses is really intimidating, so to realize that they can go solar and save that huge cost, they're starting to see that that's the more economical way to go," John-Meyer explained.

Still, there are some drawbacks to using solar panels including cost, maintenance, and potential for damage. But companies that install the product say that's all changing.

"The cost has dropped so dramatically. In the last six years. It's dropped 70% and it continues to drop as the price of electric continues to go up. It's exciting in the sense that our planet is pretty fragile. The idea that we don't have to plunder those resources in the ground, but instead take the free clean energy from the sun is amazing," said John-Meyer.

The panels will also help provide energy for electric car charging stations at Farmers Park.