Clayton has a history of being a leader in sustainability and environmental protections. In the 1990s, the city instituted one of the first recycling programs in the region. Several years ago, it pioneered a single-stream recycling program and at the start of this year Clayton was of the first municipalities in St. Louis to enact its own public smoking ban. Now, Clayton is on its way to becoming the first Green Power Community in the state of Missouri.
In the spring of last year, Clayton launched a citywide effort in a partnership with AmerenUE Pure Power and Microgrid Energy to become a Green Power Community. To gain this recognition by the Environmental Protection Agency, the city must have 2 percent of its total energy consumption coming from clean renewable energy sources.
“Green power is just a piece of sustainability,” said Cindy Bambini, the team leader of the Clayton’s Green Power Community Challenge with AmerenUE Pure Power. “You have to look at your waste, you have to look at your recycling, and you have to look at your transportation. And Clayton has taken a holistic approach to this and [the Green Power Community Challenge] was just another nut to crack for this community.”
In the Green Power Community Challenge, Clayton residents and businesses can voluntarily either purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) or install on site renewable energy systems like solar panels to help the city come closer to the 2 percent renewable energy target.
“The involvement of our two companies – Ameren’s Pure Power Program and Microgrid – is about helping make it easier to participate in the challenge by providing different options for residents and businesses,” Rick Hunter, the Chief Executive Officer of Microgrid Energy, said.
Pure Power is AmerenUE’s voluntary renewable energy program. Residents and businesses can simply enroll by choosing to add a small amount to their monthly energy bill to offset their energy consumption through RECs, which go towards supporting the construction of large-scale renewable energy projects in Missouri. Although they are not directly utilizing the new renewable energy from wind farms being built with the support of the Pure Power program, the overall amount of green power on the grid is increasing.
Many Clayton residents and businesses have embraced the challenge and signed up for Pure Power to reduce their carbon footprint and help Clayton come closer to completing the challenge.
“The challenge has been very well-received in the community,” City of Clayton Mayor Linda Goldstein said. “Dozens of local businesses and many Clayton residents have signed on to the challenge. It’s very exciting.”
Currently, 29 Clayton businesses and 193 residents have signed on to the challenge. Local businesses, which expend a substantial amount of the city’s total energy consumption, have made a significant difference by signing on for the challenge.
“The business community has been phenomenal,” Bambini said. “We went to the top 50 consumers of electricity in the city and so far, 29 of them have committed to the challenge, which is outstanding.”
The Moneta Group is among the businesses in Clayton to support the city in accomplishing the challenge.
“Participating in the Clayton Green Power Community Challenge is just another way for us to make a positive contribution to the community,” Moneta Group Principal Tim Halls said. “Regardless of your beliefs on global warming, there’s no arguing that the supply of fossil fuels is finite, and we need to develop cost-efficient alternative sources of energy before we run out of coal, gas and oil. Participating in the challenge is a very small price to pay to advance that effort.”
In addition to helping Clayton complete the challenge, purchasing RECs through Pure Power invests in green energy construction projects solely in the state of Missouri.
“When you purchase a REC from Missouri’s wind farms, not only do you get the environmental benefits but you are getting the economic benefits that come from a large construction project in Missouri,” Bambini said.
RECs purchased through the Pure Power program currently support the Farmers City Wind Farm located in the northwestern corner of the state. The development of the wind farm has created 150 permanent jobs and raised over $600,000 in tax revenue annually. It consists of 73 turbines and produces enough electricity to power approximately 33,000 homes annually.
“It takes a second to enroll, but the impact on Missouri is long term,” Bambini said.
Clayton residents and businesses also have the option to install onsite renewable energy systems to help the challenge. People can work with renewable energy installation companies like Microgrid Energy, which is based in Clayton and specializes in energy efficiency and the installation of photovoltaic solar panels. More than a dozen residents are currently considering installing solar panels and through a federal grant the new Clayton Police Station with have solar panels.
The City of Clayton has set Earth Day 2011, April 22, as the deadline for the challenge. Today, the city is approximately 87 percent of the way to reaching the 2 percent renewable energy target goal. As a result, every household and business that signs on to the challenge can make a significant difference in helping Clayton becoming the first Green Power Community in Missouri.
“It sets an example for other communities,” Goldstein said. “It’s a challenge for us to do it, but then it’s also a challenge for other communities to do it… It also creates an awareness in the community that encourages residents to be more environmentally thoughtful in their daily life and decisions.”
If Clayton were to complete this challenge, it would be among the 33 other cities across the nation that have achieved the status of a Green Power Communities – continuing to be at the forefront of community sustainability and environmental awareness.
“I think the main benefit [of participating in the challenge] is helping the community achieve something great,” Hunter said. “I think it would be an exciting thing to say that we would be the first Green Power Community in Missouri.”