Consumers Energy / GVSU Solar Garden
Finding reliable and financially responsible ways to enter the realm of renewable energy can be challenging but a necessity when looking at the future dependency on fossil fuels and reducing carbon footprints. There are fewer people every day that can deny global warming and the harm that comes from continuing to use fossil fuels in the manner that we have done in the past. The Michigan Public Service Commission approved a Solar Garden program and Grand Valley State University reached a partnership with Consumers Energy, a local utility company, on October 1, 2015. For this university it was the largest renewable energy venture ever embarked upon. GVSU financed a subscription to the Solar Garden up front and receives a monthly credit on their Consumers Energy electric bill for the next 25 years. GVSU also received additional funds to construct 2 mini solar arrays and for the development of an educational curricula over 6 years.
Consumers Energy built and maintains the 3 megawatt solar garden on approximately 17 acres of university property in Allendale, Michigan. GVSU agreed to subscribe for 500 kW which will generate enough electricity to operate approximately 70 to 80 homes for one year. The solar garden was completed in April 2016.
The result of a higher education institution and a local utility partnering in a renewable energy endeavor was nothing short of a fantastic learning experience all for students, faculty, staff and the community. Using this renewable energy model may be a small but solid step for those who would like to start that marathon towards reducing dependency on fossil fuels and their carbon footprint while providing a multitude of opportunities for solar education.
In the following months we will include updates of various developments that have influenced the awareness of our students. This month's update is on the 'Solar on Wheels' mobile trailer below.
'Solar on Wheels’ Mobile Trailer
The first year the ‘Solar on Wheels’ mobile trailer was in demand even before it was completed. This trailer was one of two smaller educational solar modules required by the project and built by engineering students as their senior design project. It showcased solar array panels as well as solar shingles. Through demonstration at events it was discovered some improvements could be made to assist in the deployment of the panels and the capacity of the arrays. Those modifications are almost complete and the Solar on Wheels will soon be ready to roll. It is currently scheduled to be on display for the Fall ‘Energizing Our World’ middle school events.