The prospects for solar energy in the Midwest are brightening.
You shouldn't be.
The Midwest gets plenty of sunshine — more than Germany, which uses more solar power than any other country. Kansas City has the same percentage of annual sunshine as San Antonio, for example, and Dodge City, Kan., has as much as Miami.
And the big cost considerations that for years have held back solar power in the region have changed. The price of solar panels has dropped substantially, and the Midwest's traditionally low electricity prices are on the rise.
Those factors came together recently for Tom Lawler, a Commerce Bank vice president. As coordinator of the bank's sustainability efforts, he has crunched the numbers on solar power for years. But this time he got a big surprise. They made economic sense.
The payback time for a solar panel project had plummeted from 25 years to just 10 years. As a result, Commerce this month is installing photovoltaic panels at its branch at 135th Street and State Line Road in Kansas City.
Solar power still isn't a bargain, but many other Midwest businesses and homeowners are agreeing with Commerce: It has become a viable investment.
New solar customers range from a couple in Lee's Summit to Posty Cards, a Kansas City greeting card company that later this year will install the largest solar installation in Missouri. Kansas City Power & Light plans to have its first solar power installation up and running next year.
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