The Solar Decathlon Makes Front Page News

The Solar Decathlon project made front page on the Joplin Globe newspaper. Kyle Clingan, Daniela Carvajal, and Cody Stepp traveled to Joplin, Missouri to share information about our ongoing project to a 60-member committee focused on creating a state-wide energy plan for emergencies.
By Wally Kennedy
Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 8:11 pm
Deregulation of electricity and natural gas, and a greater emphasis on renewables, such as solar and wind energy, were among the recommendations offered by the public on Tuesday to a steering committee impaneled to help Missouri create a comprehensive energy plan.
The 60-member committee, meeting at Missouri Southern State University, heard comments from representatives of Missouri Gas Energy and Empire District Electric Co. about the way they handle their energy resources during an emergency.
Lewis Mills, director of the Division of Energy within the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said the handling of energy resources during an emergency was a natural fit for the steering committee’s meeting in Joplin because of Joplin’s experience with ice storms and the 2011 tornado.
After talking for more than two hours about energy resources in emergencies and energy distribution in general, the committee opened the floor to comments from the public.
Two people spoke about how deregulation of electricity and natural gas in Illinois had lowered consumer rates for those energy sources. They encouraged the committee to look at deregulation as part of a comprehensive energy plan for the state.
Art Boyt, with Solsource Greenbuild, a solar energy company based in Neosho, told the committee that it should involve the Missouri Public Service Commission in helping make options for solar energy available in the state.
Cheryl Marcum, who lives in what she called “a solar-drenched home” near Stockton Lake, saluted the committee for its work and said a state energy plan was long overdue.
Marcum said she made a commitment to renewables in 2002. She said her solar panels power her 3,700-square-foot house, an electric farm cart and her Chevy Volt.
“They said solar energy was a big pipe dream. Well, it is possible,” she said.
Marcum said the energy plan should require the full implementation of Proposition C by the state’s investor-owned utilities. Proposition C, approved by Missouri voters in 2008, required those utilities to provide homeowner rebates for solar installations. By investing in two wind farms, Empire District Electric Co. met Proposition C’s renewable energy requirements and obtained an exemption from the Missouri Legislature for the rebates on solar installations before Proposition C was enacted. The Missouri Supreme Court heard recent testimony about whether that exemption should stand.
Marcum said the rebate program should extend to electric cooperatives in the state. She also said the state should think about revising its building code to promote energy efficiency and find ways to promote the construction of charging stations for electric vehicles.
Jeff Droz, who operates Roof Power Solar in Rich Hill, said Proposition C started 60 solar-installation companies in the markets served by Kansas City Power and Light and Ameren in St. Louis. He said solar energy would be further along in Southwest Missouri if Empire had paid rebates for solar installations.
Droz said the committee needs to look at ways to reduce demand.
“Solar makes absolute financial sense today,” he said.
Ray Vanostran, of Joplin, told the committee: “My solar panels have dropped my cost for energy by $100 a month. It’s a viable option for anyone who wants to take it.”
The committee also heard from:
• Gary Pulsipher, president of Mercy Hospital Joplin, who talked about the steps Mercy has taken to create a hardened hospital that is capable of withstanding another tornado and the energy system that should continue its operation during an emergency.
• Kyle Clingan, a junior at Drury University in Springfield, who talked about the university’s participation with Crowder College at Neosho in the Solar Decathlon. The students are creating a house that will survive a disaster like the Joplin tornado and still remain functional and habitable.
The plan
An executive order by Gov. Jay Nixon directed the Division of Energy to develop a comprehensive state energy plan by May 31, 2015. Through a series of statewide meetings and an online forum, the plan will recommend policies that encourage efficient use of energy in all sectors of the economy, spur job creation and economic growth, and promote development, security and affordability of diverse energy resources.