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SEMO And Ameren Missouri Provide Update On Local 'Neighborhood Solar Project'

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John Moore / KRCU
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Solar Canopies in Construction at SEMO's Show Me Center

Last November, Southeast Missouri State University and Ameren Missouri introduced a new clean energy initiative, their ‘Neighborhood Solar Project’.

The ‘Neighborhood Solar Project’ objective is to collaborate with community organizations like the University to host solar generation. It is the largest neighborhood solar project in the state of Missouri.

The project began by constructing solar canopies in the Show Me Center Parking lot, designed to produce solar energy for homes in the area.

In addition to producing clean energy the project has also helped grow the local economy by creating education opportunities, apprenticeships, and around 60 construction jobs.

On Thursday, the University and Ameren Missouri provided the community with an update on the project’s progress.

As solar panel canopies continue to be assembled on the University grounds, Russell Burger, Superintendent of Ameren Missouri says the project’s completion continues to be anticipated by the community.

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John Moore
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Construction site of the Neighborhood Solar Project.

“Some of the benefits it provides for the students and really the community is the canopy parking, and you know, we all want cleaner energy, and we're proud to partner with them to provide some clean energy to go on to our grid. This solar energy center will produce enough energy to power 130 homes a year,” said Burger.

The construction awaits completion before the panels are able to produce clean energy, however Brad Deken, Chair of Engineering and Technology at Southeast says the process has already proven its benefit to community members and SEMO students.

“One of the things that ties our department together is our emphasis on preparing students for work for the workforce. Representatives from our various industries will come in and tell us what they need, what they're looking for, and so when we're developing programs and we're developing curricula and courses, we're listening to them as much as we can, and training students for what they would actually be doing,” said Deken.

Deken says in the future the University hopes to continue formulating and implementing green energy courses in the STEM program amidst the growing job market demand.

SEMO Instructor of Engineering and Technology Jaron Mcmurry explains that the project has given students the perspective of an on-the-job experience, one much harder to replicate purley in the classroom.

“One of the biggest challenges for a young student is how to plan and manage time. So just kind of seeing this project from start to finish and realizing how many people are on site every day, how long does it take just for the planning stage, breaking ground and they're still going-- our goal is to let them kind of plan how much time they need, figure out what people are doing what and see if they get close on that estimating time and materials and scheduling, things like that,” said Mcmurry. “It is nice to have this product here because the students actually drive by every day and can kind of see the progress right as it's growing.”

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John Moore
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SEMO Construction Management Students touring the solar project site.

Southeast Construction Management Students have expressed their enthusiasm toward their involvement in the project.

Zach Aufdenberg says the experience has given him an up close understanding of the trial and error process of construction work.

“Some of the things we learned are things that can go wrong on a construction project because I think they had a few things that they had to reengineer, like they hit rock underneath. So one of the things that we've learned is how we deal with those problems, and I think that's kind of one of the more beneficial things from coming out here and touring the site that we've covered in class,” said Aufdenberg.

Student Rachel Phile says that the interactive experience has felt less like course work and more like a professional position.

I’m getting points and have to get graded for stuff but I'm having fun and learning a lot as well,” said Phile.

As the east side of the canopy nears completion, students and construction workers continue to work the second row of solar canopies. Additional site tours will be held in upcoming months.

The project is on schedule to be completed and connected to the Ameren grid in July 2022.

The Neighborhood Solar Project is in the process of expanding to three new locations in St. Louis by 2023.