The Missouri Botanical Garden has partnered with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) to coordinate a solar group buy pilot program in the City of St. Louis, Clayton, Maplewood, Richmond Heights, and University City.
The advantage of a group buy is the power of volume purchasing, which can significantly reduce the up-front costs of installing solar on your home.
Dozens of solar group buys have been completed across the country in cities like Portland, Milwaukee, and Chicago, and in states from California to Vermont. Among all of them, there have been some common elements that led to success: competitive contractor selection, community-led outreach with a trusted community partner, and a limited-time offering.
Competitive Contractor Selection: Grow Solar St. Louis’s Advisory Committee is comprised of consists of representatives from MREA, Washington University, and Missouri Botanical Garden. MREA issued a competitive Request for Proposals and the Advisory Committee selected a single installer to help carry out the program. This way customers get the simplicity of a single installer, plus the confidence that the selection was made from a number of competitive choices.
Community-Led Outreach: Grow Solar St. Louis would not be possible without the strong support of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Washington University, and local organizations. Are you part of a neighborhood association, nonprofit organization, school, or workplace that is excited about solar? Help us get the word out by distributing flyers or hosting a Solar Power Hour! Email to get started.
Limited-time Offering: Nothing motivates people like a deadline. The time-sensitive nature of the group buy adds urgency into the mix, and helps bring the price down for everyone. How? Read on.
The key ingredient for most participants is the pricing for the group buy. The competitive proposal process ensuresGrow Solar St. Louis achieves a price per watt lower than an individual would generally be able to get on the market. In addition, the price comes down for everyone when certain benchmarks are surpassed. For example, once the participants of the group buy collectively reach 50 kW of capacity, everyone gets an additional reduction of the price of their array. An additional reduction of price happens at the 150 kW mark, again at 250 kW, and a final reduction above 350 kW. To be eligible for the group buy pricing, you must attend a Solar Power Hour.
Two important factors allow solar installers to offer lower prices through the program: strong customer education and an economy of scale.
Strong Customer Education: Community outreach and education are critical to the success of the program. The MREA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that does training and education around renewable energy, works with local organizations to schedule and facilitate a number of 1-hour-long Solar Power Hours around the community. These events help interested home and business owners determine whether solar is right for them. We’ll go over the basics of solar, market trends, financials, how to tell if your site is ready for solar, and how to participate in the Grow Solar St. Louis program. Getting well-informed participants to the table saves the installer hours and hours of marketing and education they would otherwise have to do themselves, and in turn saves you money.
Economy of Scale: Just like in a buyers club or co-op, the more people participate, the lower the cost is for the service provider (in this case, a solar installer), and the lower the prices are for participants. Your participation matters, and it always helps when folks talk to their friends and neighbors about the group buy.
ABOUT THE INSTALLER
StraightUp Solar is a BBB A+, locally owned and environmentally-conscious Certified B Corp founded in 2006 withheadquarters in the St. Louis region. Over its 13-year history, StraightUp Solar has completed more than 1,300 solar energy installations totaling over 13MW. StraightUp Solar is a member-owner in both the Amicus Solar Cooperative and the Amicus O&M Cooperative, and is proud to be an active voice in the Missouri Solar Energy Association. StraightUp Solar is a seven time Grow Solar group buy veteran from the St. Louis Metro East, Bloomington and Champaign IL programs, resulting in 2.6 MW of successful installations for 260+ participants to date.
The solar installer for this program was selected through a competitive Request for Proposals in July 2019.
Now that you’ve become familiar with how the program works, the next step is to become informed about purchasing solar. Click here to view the schedule for our upcoming Solar Power Hours and updates about the program. We’re excited to meet you and get started!
Ameren’s efficiency incentive program can be found at AmerenMissouriSavings.com
Info from Ameren on solar: www.ameren.com/missouri/
EPA Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculator: www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-
Google Project Sunroof: https://www.google.com/get/sunroof
Zillow Economic Research, Homes With Solar Panels Sell for 4.1% More
Berkeley National Laboratory study on solar home values: https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6942e-newhomes-factsheet.pdf