Sustainability Summer 2017

Solar Gardens energize education opportunities

by Michele Coffill

It’s been a year since the Solar Gardens project was completed on the Allendale Campus.

The 17-acre, 11,200-solar-panel project, south of Pierce Avenue near 48th Avenue, is owned and operated by Consumers Energy through its Solar Gardens program. The site provides electricity produced by solar energy to enrolled customers in Michigan, including Grand Valley. The university subscribes to 500 kilowatts.

The site is the largest community solar project in Michigan. From January–May 2017, it produced 529 megawatt (MWh) hours; one MWh equals 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh), which is enough to power 48 Michigan homes for an entire year.

solar gardens graphic


In addition to providing electricity, the site provides nearly endless educational opportunities for students:

• Engineering students built a portable, trailer-based solar panel demonstration unit that powered an LED light show, music and a phone charging station during ArtPrize 2016.

• Nearly 80 area sixth- through eighth-graders learned about the power of sustainable energy during a one-day camp.

• Students in a natural resources management class used the Solar Gardens as a case study to learn the principles and economics of the energy system.

• Fifty fire inspectors, contractors and public safety officers from surrounding counties attended a first-responder safety training workshop at the site.

Page last modified August 14, 2017