COLUMBIA — Allie Gassmann plans to continue using solar panels on her home for the rest of her life, but she does see a more attractive alternative.
“Unless of course the whole grid becomes solar and wind energy,” she said, “then we won’t need our own rooftop panels anywhere.”
Gassmann and her family installed solar panels on the roof of their Columbia home in 2011. With federal and city rebates, the installation price was around $10,000. Gassmann said that while that's expensive, her main reason for switching to solar — global climate change — outweighed any worries about price.
“Yes, it’s a lot of money up front, but over time you do save a lot,” she said, adding that upkeep of the panels is easy.
The panels reduce carbon emissions by 5.3 tons per year, totaling roughly 158 tons of carbon dioxide over their 30-year lifetime. In the six years since the Gassmanns installed them, the panels have also produced around 32,700 kilowatt hours of power, providing a sizable break in their energy bill.
While more families like the Gassmanns are helping the city fulfill its renewable energy requirements for 2018 and beyond, solar is a nascent industry in Columbia. According to the city’s 2017 Renewable Energy Report, 0.13 percent of its energy last year was solar. In order to meet the required levels, city officials are considering several options, including more wind energy from Kansas, solar community projects and a tweaked net metering process, to promote clean energy use.
The requirements, which come from an ordinance revised by the City Council in 2014, include benchmarks for the city to generate or buy electricity from renewable energy sources at the following levels:
For the first three months of 2017, renewable energy made up 18.85 percent of Columbia’s total system. While production is expected to be less efficient over the summer, Columbia Water and Light Assistant Utilities Director Ryan Williams said the city “should be in fairly good shape to be at 15 percent by the end of the year.”
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