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Find your solar potential


By Laura Machala, solar energy coordinator

Created as part of the Solar Ready II initiative, the Metro KC Solar Map is a new, interactive website that allows users to look up any address in eight counties in the Kansas City region and view its solar energy potential.

Site visitors can click on any building to display the available roof area for solar, the potential photovoltaic system size, annual electricity cost savings, return on investment, and monthly solar potential in kilowatt hours. The site also provides basic information about solar power and how to contact solar installers. Additional tools still in development will allow users to draw around future building sites to calculate solar potential, and also calculate the solar capacity of an entire street or neighborhood.

Solar Ready II is funded by a Department of Energy Rooftop Solar Challenge II grant. Regional planning council partners are working with more than 200 local governments nationally, representing a population of nearly 19 million people. Locally, Solar Ready II is working with 21 jurisdictions to streamline solar permitting and implement other best management practices that encourage and facilitate solar installation.

Solar mapping website:

For more information, contact Laura Machala, Solar Energy Coordinator, at 816-701-8244 or

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A geo-what system?

The new IKEA in Merriam, Kansas, has shoppers and budding interior designers excited, but they aren’t the only ones. Green energy aficionados are happy to see a geothermal HVAC system helping to heat and cool the expansive store. But what is a geothermal HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, and what’s the big deal?

What is a Geothermal HVAC system?

Unlike ordinary heating and cooling systems, geothermal HVAC systems transfer heat to and from the earth using a loop of buried pipes filled with fluid instead of burning fossil fuels to generate heat. Outdoor temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons, but underground temperatures don’t change as dramatically thanks to the insulating properties of the earth. Four to six feet below ground, temperatures remain relatively constant.

How does a Geothermal HVAC work?

popular mechanincs geothermal hvac heat exchange

A geothermal cooling and heating system has four main components: a heat exchange pump unit with compressor, a loop of underground pipes, heat-exchange fluid, and air-delivery ductwork.

In the summer, the system passes cool water from the underground pipes across a heat-exchanger before passing it back through the system where it can be re-cooled by the earth. In the winter, the lukewarm water pumped from the underground pipes runs past the heat exchanger and is then compressed, warming it to an even higher temperature, before a fan system distributes the warmth throughout the building.

Why is a Geothermal HVAC a great idea?

  • Most geothermal heat pump systems are very energy efficient. Typically, electric power is used only to operate the system’s fan, compressor and pump. For every unit of energy used to power the system, three to five units of equivalent energy are supplied as heat. The system works just as effectively in warming and cooling and can be engineered to require no additional backup heat source.
  • It’s low-maintenance. A geothermal system may cost more up front when compared to a more traditional HVAC system, but it requires less ongoing maintenance. Underground pipes — the most expensive part of installation — can last for generations, and the heat-exchange equipment typically lasts decades since it is protected indoors.
  • Installation can be flexible. Depending on the site, the underground pipes may be buried vertically, meaning little above-ground surface is needed. If desired, a small backup system can be added for extremely hot or cold days so that the underground pipe system is right-sized for average temperatures.
  • It’ll keep going and going. New guidelines and techniques have eliminated the issue of thermal retention in the ground which means heat can be exchanged with it indefinitely. Plus, modern underground pipe systems don’t consume extra water.

So if you shop at the new IKEA store, take a moment to enjoy the air temperature and appreciate the energy-efficient comfort you’re experiencing. And next time you’re looking for an HVAC upgrade at home, consider a geothermal system of your own.

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Solar Video Series for Local Governments

Since December 2011, MARC has received two Rooftop Solar Challenge awards from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative. The goal of the Rooftop Solar Challenge is to make solar power more affordable and widespread by reducing soft costs such as permitting, zoning and regulatory barriers. During the first award cycle, MARC worked with local governments within the Kansas City region. Now, in the second grant cycle, MARC is leading a team of 10 regional planning councils to spread our solar best management practices to more jurisdictions, both in the Kansas City region and across the country.

Our team’s consultant, Meister Consultants Group (MCG), recently put out a series of video lessons as part of the Solar Outreach Partnership, also part of the SunShot Initiative. These 10–15 minute videos explain basic solar concepts and barriers to solar deployment, and provide local governments with strategies and resources to help overcome those barriers. Specific topics covered include local solar ordinances, solar financing options and installing solar on municipal facilities.

This video series is based on a report by the DOE, “Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments,” which is available, along with other resources, at



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Celebrate Earth Day in Kansas City


Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22, but several events in the Kansas City region are scheduled between now and June. From puppet shows to river clean-ups, we hope you can find a way to show some love for our environment this year.

Visit MARC’s Earth Day website for more information.

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KCMO installs solar panels on city buildings and in the City Market

KCMO-solar-array-City-Market-webThe city of Kansas City, Mo., is partnering with KCP&L and Brightergy, a local solar energy company, to install solar panels at 45 city locations. In total, 61 25-kilowatt (kW) systems will be installed, for a total of 1.5 megawatts of solar power. Police, fire department and community center buildings are among those getting the solar panels.

The City Market received four solar panels on the south-facing roof peak of the Arabia Steamboat Museum building (see photo).

The systems were designed by Solar Design Studio for KCP&L and will be leased to the city. Panel installation by Mark One Electric was completed in March, and the system will be fully operational by late spring. All of the installations are slated to be completed by the end of June.

In addition to the solar energy that will soon partially power the City Market’s east bank of buildings, the market has taken other measures to reduce its environmental impact. For instance, the market has a compost and recycling program that annually diverts almost 400 tons of food waste, cardboard and other materials from area landfills.

Read more



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Teams gearing up for 2015 Solar Decathlon

solar decathlon 2013 missouri 2In February, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman announced the 20 collegiate teams selected to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015. The Decathlon challenges the teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and aesthetically pleasing.

Teams have approximately two years to design and build their houses and the winning design will be the one that best showcases affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence, as well as optimal energy production and efficiency.

Three Missouri schools are participating: Drury University (Springfield), Crowder College (Neosho) and the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla). In 2013, the Vienna University of Technology (Vienna, Austria) won the Decathlon. The 2015 competition will take place at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Ca.

Read more about the Solar Decathlon.

See pictures of the Missouri University of Science and Technology’s 2013 Decathlon house.

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2013 — A Big Year for Solar Jobs in Missouri!

bigstock_Solar_Panel_Installation_9354038_cropped_300pxMissouri experienced a surge in solar jobs in 2013, according to a report released by the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association (MOSEIA) this month. While a total of 399 solar jobs were created in Missouri in 2011 and 2012 combined, 2013 saw the creation of a whopping 1,713 new solar jobs. The report, produced by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and written by John Farrell, projects that by the end of 2014, Missouri will have a total of 3,775 solar jobs.

MO_solar_increase_graphWhile much of this growth can be attributed to solar rebates offered by investor-owned utilities in Missouri, Farrell projects that with retail electricity prices rising an average of 5 percent per year, solar will continue to be a good long-term investment for electricity customers. In fact, assuming electricity rates rise at that rate, electricity produced from solar will cost less than power provided by utilities by 2019, even without a rebate.

The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2013, released in January 2014, shows that the U.S. solar industry employs 142,692 workers, an increase of nearly 20 percent over 2012.

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Solar Ready Initiative honored at solar conference

Laura_M_MOSEIA_awardOn February 2, MARC’s Solar Ready program received a Solar Advocacy Award from the Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association (MOSEIA) at the organization’s annual conference held in Kansas City, Mo. The award is in recognition of MARC’s efforts to facilitate solar installations in the region.

In 2011, MARC was one of 22 teams across the country to receive a Rooftop Solar Challenge I (RSCI) award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The goal of RSCI was to reduce non-hardware costs associated with solar photovoltaic (PV) installation. While the cost of PV panels has decreased rapidly in recent years, soft costs relating to permitting, processing, fees and other installation costs have remained relatively high. In 2012, MARC staff created Solar Ready KC and worked with five local governments — Kansas City, Mo., Lee’s Summit, Mo., Clay County, Mo., Olathe, Kan., and Johnson County, Kan. — to streamline the process of installing solar PV through soft cost reduction measures, making it simpler, faster and less expensive to install solar at a home or business.

In 2013, as a Rooftop Solar Challenge II (RSCII) recipient, MARC was one of eight teams selected by the DOE to continue working on solar soft cost reduction measures. MARC has brought in nine other regional planning councils to learn from the best management practices staff developed during RSCI and expand our model in other regions.  Additionally, MARC is expanding its partnership locally by recruiting other local jurisdictions to work on soft cost reductions. After only three months, the national team (known as Solar Ready II) has recruited 40 jurisdictions to examine and make changes to their laws and practices that impact solar soft costs.

As electricity prices continue to rise across the country, the interest in solar will only grow. Nationwide, installations in 2013 were up 27 percent from 2012. Through both Rooftop Solar Challenge awards, MARC’s work has and continues to make it easier to install solar PV creating clean, local energy in the Kansas City region and beyond.

Read more about the Kansas City’s Solar Ready II program.

Read more about the national Solar Ready II efforts at the National Association of Regional Council’s website.

Photo courtesy of Josh Campbell (
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Zoo’s penguin exhibit built with animals and environment in mind

Helzberg-Penguins-Blog-Post-PhotoThe Kansas City Zoo buzzed with activity when it opened the new Helzberg Penguin Plaza in October. The new facility was designed with both penguins and the environment in mind. Greenability Magazine organized a tour of the facility in January, sharing information about how the zoo made sustainable decisions when building this regional amenity.

For the penguins’ comfort, the lights in the exhibit are automated to mimic the schedule of the Southern Hemisphere. To conserve energy, the lights in the employee area turn off automatically when not in use. The air and exhaust systems turn off automatically when the doors to the outside open. Additionally, 64 solar panels were installed on the roof to offset some of the energy used in the building.

To save water, the 100,000-gallon tank is filtered instead of drained. Used water is routed to holding basins that filter, sanitize and then return clean water to the exhibit. The system processes water at a rate of 945 gallons per minute, completing a full cycle in about half an hour!

The Helzberg Penguin Plaza is also a LEED-certified building. The exhibit was constructed with 20 percent recycled material, and 75 percent of all construction waste was diverted from the landfill.

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New “LoNo” program promotes clean air, reduced energy use

bus iconOur MARC Transportation Matters bloggers wrote a great summary about the Jan. 9 announcement of the Federal Transit Administration’s new Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program (LoNo).

This quote from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx sums up why we’re excited to see this new program:

“The LoNo program will make a real difference in people’s lives by helping them get to work or school while letting them breathe clean air. We are proud to initiate a new program that reflects a commitment to reducing our nation’s dependence on oil while developing more sustainable sources of energy here at home.”

Click over to Transportation Matters for more information!

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