Missouri Botanical Garden Utilizes Solar Power

In keeping with its ongoing commitment to sustainability and improving the built environment, the Missouri Botanical Garden is utilizing solar technology to help offset the energy and operating costs of its Commerce Bank Center for Science Education (CBEC). The recent installation of 110 solar panels atop the building will produce an estimated 32,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, or about five percent of the building’s total electrical needs. The solar array, made possible by a unique partnership with Express Scripts, will pay for itself within six years and save an estimated $180,000 in electricity costs over its useful life.

The solar panels were supplied at no expense to the Garden. Express Scripts made the initial equipment investment on the Garden’s behalf and will be reimbursed over the next five years by leveraging a rebate from Ameren Missouri and federal tax credits for renewable energy.
A touch-screen monitoring station in the CBEC lobby will illustrate the real-time power production of the solar panels and the daily energy harnessed. Visitors can also measure the array’s power production tallies for the current week, month and its lifetime to-date.

“The result of this partnership will be an excellent educational demonstration for the community,” said Deborah Frank, vice president of sustainability for the Missouri Botanical Garden. “Visitors to the building for one of our education classes or EarthWays Center programs will get to glimpse sustainability in action and tangible evidence of the power of alternative forms of energy. We hope that our action will inspire others to seek out ways to increase energy efficiency and utilize solar energy in their own homes and businesses.”

“Part of our mission as a corporate citizen is to be as responsible to the environment as possible,” said George Paz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Express Scripts. “We work to make our own operations sustainable and always look for ways to conserve energy. Our partnership with the Missouri Botanical Garden, a world leader in the green movement, is an excellent vehicle to extend that mission while benefiting one of the region’s finest civic institutions.”

The rooftop solar array is mounted on an approximately 3,000-square-foot area. Each of the 40-inch-wide-by-65-inch-long individual solar panels weighs 40 pounds and is secured to the roof by concrete blocks to hold it in place even in the strongest winds. The panels are comprised of polycrystalline photovoltaic modules with micro-inverters, which convert the sun’s direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (or AC, the type used to power lights, appliances and other electronics) on the spot.

“We chose this particular system because it has one of the shortest ‘energy paybacks’ possible, meaning the energy used in the manufacture of the modules will be recovered in just one year,” said Rick Hunter of Microgrid Energy, the St. Louis-based company which installed the photovoltaic system.

The CBEC solar array system size is 25.3 kilowatts of DC power. The power created by this system is equivalent to the energy needed to power four to six homes. Over its 30-year lifetime, the system is estimated to produce 870,000 kilowatt hours of energy and displace 800 tons of carbon dioxide. In other environmental terms, the savings is on par with eliminating 2,500 gallons of gasoline burned in cars per year, or preserving 29 acres of hardwood forest.

“It is vitally important that we continually look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact,” said Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden. “This new solar array is just one example of many ways the Garden seeks to fulfill our mission to preserve and enrich life, and we will continue to seek out ways to improve our operations with sustainability in mind.”

The Commerce Bank Center for Science Education is located at 4651 Shaw Blvd. at the intersection of Shaw and Kingshighway, just a few blocks west of the 79-acre Missouri Botanical Garden in south St. Louis.

For general Garden information, visit www.mobot.org

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