The Aries Co.: Making an environmental commitment

The Aries Co. installs solar panels to offset energy costs


For The Aries Co., St. Louis, getting a solar panel system to offset energy costs was the next step in making their business greener. The company used recycled material, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint and energy-efficient lighting in its 2008 renovations, and continues to recycle and reuse as much as possible in everyday operations.

“We’ve always been interested in getting invested in solar energy and we have been waiting for the right time frame to do that in. With business cycles on the uptick after the past few years, it became a possibility,” says Kevin Barrera, The Aries Co. general manager.

One thing that helped set minds at ease was watching the process of installation next door, he says. “Our neighbor had the system installed this past summer and when we spoke with the installers at that company, that helped push along the idea. When people you know that well are putting it into place, it’s easier to adopt,” Barrera says.

The timing was perfect for funding, he says. “Different states have different programs. The state of Missouri and our energy supplier, Ameren, were able to fund half of the project. That was a huge incentive for us. That rebate will cover half of the system including the installation work. There’s also a federal tax credit or treasury grant valued at 30 percent of the project cost,” he says.

The company installing the solar panel system is regional, based in Kansas City, Mo., which also helped build trust,
he says. “They have done a couple hundred of these installs and they really handle a lot of the paperwork. They work well with the electric company and were able to ease the process for us. They also had great reviews from our neighbor and other companies locally that we contacted for references,” he says.

Prior to the solar panel installation, the area of the roof slated for the panel installation on was inspected. That created a little more work in preparation for the panels, Barrera says.

“You need to make sure your roof is in good condition. We started the planning process in October and we found out that our roof, which we thought had another 10 years in it, had to be replaced in that section,” Barrera says. “The life of the solar panels is about 25 years, the company tells us, so you want to make sure the roof is close to new or will need only minimal work.”

In the planning stage, the energy company did an assessment of The Aries Co. energy use and what they could produce with a solar power system. “They’ll tell you right up front what you’re able to produce and whether your roof has a good location for the panels,” he says. “They use the current rates for power, and they figure in those rates as well as potential increases, and give you an estimate as to when the system will be paid off. They also estimated our system will cover about a third of the energy we use for the building.”

Barrera says the solar panel system is a commitment to the business as well as the environment. “It’s an investment in the business and the property, and it’s doing a lot of the things we want to do. We want to make better decisions for our environment. There are no moving parts to the system except for a few fans. It requires very little upkeep, so a service contract was not necessary. It reduces our carbon footprint. It’s a clean way to utilize natural energy,” he says.

Planning took about two months and installation of the panels was completed during the month of December. “It all depends on the accessibility,” he says. “We have a flat roof, so that helped.”

The web-based monitoring system for the panels was installed in March and will let the solar company as well as Aries track the amount of energy the system is producing, Barrera says. “We’re hoping to put some of that information on our website, to let customers know what we’re trying to do,” he says.