By Art Holliday
WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. (KSDK) - One industry that's seeing a double digit spike in employment is solar energy. One local company, Brightergy, is about to complete 40 solar projects at local schools, an example of how the industry is growing locally.
"We have as much sun as the south of France or Tampa, Florida," said Cindy Bambini of Brightergy, a Webster Groves based solar energy company.
There are 200 days of sunlight a year, part of the reason solar energy is a growth industry in Missouri, according to Bambini.
"We had a 13 percent increase in solar jobs in the country last year compared to two percent everywhere else in other industries," she said.
Brightergy is the solar company installing 97 panels on the roof of North Glendale Elementary School. It's one of about 40 projects at schools in the Parkway and Kirkwood School districts. In 2008, when Missouri voters passed Proposition C, it provided significant rebates for solar projects like this one at North Glendale Elementary.
"Fifty thousand dollars is a little more than half the cost of this system," said Bambini, "so it's very, very generous."
Solar companies all over the nation are hiring a variety of employees, from installers to commercial salesmen like Greg Williams, who just started work at Brightergy on Monday.
"It's a great career move for people," said Williams. "So far it's only been a week, but I'm very excited about where the company's going and the opportunities we have in St. Louis."
Across town, another solar installation has just been completed at the Moonrise Hotel in the Delmar Loop. The hotel's new rooftop Moon Room, set to open in April, will be solar powered, says Moonrise Hotel owner Joe Edwards.
"People who come and have their events here know that we're putting more energy back into the grid than we're taking out of it, and that's rare," said Edwards.
Microgrid Solar is the company that installed the 107 solar panels. Company owner Mark Lopata says Microgrid Solar started with just two employees four years ago, and now has 40.
"We're seeing a very strong growth in the industry among all the companies involved," said Lopata, "and those would be electricians, marketing people, office staff, engineers. "So a project like this might have six or seven people working on it over a period of three or four months."
The outlook for employment in the solar industry isbeautiful as a sunset, with solar installation jobs expected to grow more than 20 percent in 2013.
"You have good sunlight here and good incentives for small commercial projects," said Lopata.