Jerseyville gets ‘net zero’ energy subdivision

Rooftop solar panels and wind turbines mounted over garages power all 32 homes at Lexington Farms, a new Jerseyville subdivision designed to provide residents no-cost electricity.

MidAmerica Solar of Imperial, Sachs Electric of Fenton, and Capstone Development Group of Webster Groves built the subdivision, which is about 40 miles north of St. Louis.

“Over the course of a year the solar array and wind turbines provide all the energy needed to power heating and air-conditioning systems, along with other household electricity needs,” said Jeff Lewis, president of MidAmerica Solar. “While similar technology has been used in homes, it hasn’t been done on this scale in an entire subdivision.”

Construction of Lexington Farms, an affordable housing project of rental homes, began last summer. Residents began arriving in December but landscaping is winding up now.

Each home can produce up to 7.2 kilowatts of energy from roof-mounted solar panels.

Wind turbines mounted on masts over garages provide up to 1 kilowatt of additional energy. Lewis said tests were conducted to make sure the turbines’ vibrations were so slight as to be unnoticed by the homes’ occupants.

Ground-mounted solar panels at the subdivision’s entrance generate power for the community center.

Lexington Farms’ three-bedroom homes rent for $590 per month to families with incomes of $41,000 or less. The houses have central air conditioning, heat, hot water and other appliances that are powered by electricity generated by the solar panels and wind turbines.

The Illinois Housing Development Authority provided more than $2.5 million in assistance for the project, including federal low-income housing tax credits and federal stimulus money. Funding also came from a $260,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity and financing from Sterling Bank.

Included in the project are 16 streetlights that operate entirely off the electrical grid.

The streetlights, made by MidAmerica Solar, have their own wind turbines and solar panels that provide electricity to energy-efficient LED lights and a backup battery. The lights used to come from China. Now they come from a small factory in Affton.

Lewis said Friday he moved streetlight production to the United States more than a year ago because of quality-control problems in China.

“I like to keep Americans employed,” he said. “We’re making the streetlights here for about the same price as in China, when you consider the shipping.”

The lights are built at a plant owned by BZ Products, another solar energy firm that uses American-made components. BZ makes controls to charge batteries with electricity produced by solar panels. Frank Lewon, BZ’s owner, said he has customers worldwide.

“Everything we make, we make in the United States,” he said. “All the components, the circuit boards, everything, are made in the United States.”

Final assembly is done by six workers at BZ’s small plant.

“We cannot keep up with the demand,” Lewon said.

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/article_d6789801-8ed7-596e-bf0e-57b1c7b30c33.html#ixzz1U1WL1ClD

Jerseyville gets ‘net zero’ energy subdivision

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