In 2019, Blackrock Consulting partnered with the Missouri Botanical Garden’s EarthWays Center, Washington University, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association on Grow Solar St. Louis, STL’s first-ever solar group buy program. The Grow Solar St. Louis pilot program shattered expectations, adding 424 killowatts of clean, renewable energy to our region.
What’s a Group Buy Program?
Solar group buy programs, sometimes called solarize programs in the industry, make installing solar panels more affordable for homeowners by creating an economy of scale. The more individuals who sign up for solar, the cheaper it becomes for everyone.
Group buy programs typically involve an educational element, (called Power Hours for Grow Solar St. Louis), where community members learn all about the process of going solar, from the science of how solar works to the logistics of instillation and the potential costs and incentives available to customers.
The education provided at Power Hours reduces research time for residents, as solar incentives, rebates, and processes vary by region and the volume of information can feel overwhelming to those unfamiliar with the industry.
Group buy programs have become more popular in recent years, especially those facilitated by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, who has helped over 12 Midwestern cities generate over 11,000 kilowatts of power on 1,500 properties!
Blackrock’s Lisa Cagle, Jenn DeRose, and Adam Kepka were contracted by EarthWays Center to schedule and present at 23 Power Hours in the City of St. Louis, Maplewood, Richmond Heights, Clayton, and University City.
If our years of community engagement experience has taught us anything, it’s that people are far more likely to attend community meetings if food and beverages are available – especially beer! That’s why we decided to schedule Power Hours at places people want to visit, including the Schlafly Bottleworks, Urban Chestnut, and SqWires Restaurant and Annex. We also presented at community centers, libraries, Washington University, and even a print shop to reach as many different audiences as possible.
The presentations were fun and engaging, both for Blackrock staff and for our guests, who asked intelligent, thoughtful questions and kept us on our toes. Preparing for the Power Hours involved hours of research, practice, and conversations about the best ways to present complicated information to laypeople – a challenge that we were thrilled to take on. Making environmental information accessible for everyone is a passion for Blackrock’s sustainability team.
Experts from StraightUp Solar, the contractor who won our original request for proposal, explained the more technical side of solar at each Power Hour and walked attendees through a case study of a typical home in our region’s instillation process. Over the course of our program, we educated over 640 individuals about solar power!
In addition to Power Hours, Blackrock had the pleasure of tabling at events like the Green the Church Summit at New Northside Missionary Baptist Church and the STL Solar Expo and Symposium, providing information about solar power and EarthWays Center’s many sustainability programs to attendees.
STL’s Future is Bright 🌞
We expected this pilot program to do well, but we were blown away by the final numbers. 71 homes went solar during our pilot program, reducing emissions by 821,810 pounds in their first year of operation! These conscientious homeowners aren’t just doing their part to save the planet – they’re also saving money on their monthly energy bills (around $724 per year) and supporting local job growth. Renewable energy jobs employ 11 million people globally, and “Missouri is adding clean energy jobs faster than every other state in the Midwest,” according to Tradewind Energy).
The results of our first group buy program make it clear that STL is ready to go solar.
We are so proud to have been a part of this historic program and can’t wait to see what the future holds for sustainability in STL.
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