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U.S. Bank adds solar power array to its downtown Clayton branch

March 16, 2012 12:00 am • BY ROBERT KELLY • rkelly@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8345

CLAYTON • This city recently issued a “green challenge” for businesses and residents to make their buildings and homes more energy efficient. The U.S. Bank branch at 10 North Hanley Road is answering the call.

Installation of 105 solar panels on the roof of downtown Clayton’s U.S. Bank building is nearly complete. Bank officials hope the solar energy generation from the panels will save $5,000 to $6,000 annually in electricity bills.

Clayton encourages such projects, and one of its ordinances requires public buildings to be certified to the silver level of LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

But in a larger sense, U.S. Bank officials also hope the solar array will be a prototype for similar solar projects at most of U.S. Bank’s 3,085 banking offices in 25 states.

“This project will give us the real figures to see how this works and if it’s worth doing the same work at most of our other branches,” said Kurt M. Kreutz, vice president and St. Louis area property manager of U.S. Bank’s corporate real estate.

Clayton Mayor Linda Goldstein has said the city was committed to being “a regional leader in green energy solutions.” And with residents and businesses responding, Clayton has been designated a Green Power Community by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Goldstein cited U.S. Bank as a leader in helping Clayton keep that EPA designation. “U.S. Bank is forward-thinking and investing now in future energy savings,” she said.

Clayton-based Microgrid Energy installed the solar panels on a grid over 2,500 square feet of rooftop at the bank’s downtown Clayton branch. The panels already have started producing some electricity and should be at capacity soon, Kruetz said. “Even in low sunshine it’s already making electricity,” he added.

The bank building has two floors and a total of nearly 35,000 square feet of floor space. Kruetz said bank officials believe that adding the solar display should save the building at least 10 percent and hopefully more on its electric bills.

The project “probably will even add to the life of the roof,” he said, “because the sun is the hardest thing on roofs and the panels absorb much of the sunlight.”

The panels were installed at a 10 percent grade facing south, which gets the most sunlight, to optimize performance and allow any snow to melt and drain quickly. The solar array is producing electricity that feeds into the building’s electrical distribution system and mixes with the power from the grid for use throughout the building. The system is expected to produce about 30,000 kilowatt hours of energy power per year, which is about the amount used by four to five average-sized homes annually.

U.S. Bank hopes to recover the project’s cost of more than $100,000 within eight to 10 years through energy savings, green incentives offered by Ameren Missouri and tax credit programs, Kruetz said.

“Although the offset won’t cover all of this building’s current electrical costs, over the 25-year life of the (solar panel) system, it will add up to substantial savings, especially if traditional energy prices continue to climb,” said Gregory Thorne, vice president and environmental and engineering manager for U.S. Bank’s corporate real estate group.

Thorne said U.S. Bank was evaluating proposals for solar arrays at its other facilities nationwide, including the use of solar panel canopies over parking lot stalls. The project in Clayton “is a test case to see how we can make this work elsewhere,” he said.

Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch