Celebration held for completion of Solar Gardens
Officials from Grand Valley and Consumers Energy, along with local, state and federal officials celebrated the completion and commercial start of the state's largest community solar project June 10.
The 17-acre, 11,200-solar-panel project, located on the Allendale Campus, is owned and operated by Consumers Energy through its Solar Gardens program. The site provides electricity produced by solar energy to enrolled customers across the state, including Grand Valley. The university subscribes to 500 kilowatts.
John Russell, CEO of Consumers Energy and a member of the Grand Valley Board of Trustees, said the solar gardens project is the first of its kind in the state and country.
"Utility-scale community solar power is the future of renewable energy," said Russell. "This is 100 percent clean, renewable energy - no emissions. This is what our customers want. It is cheaper and more effective and we are proud to partner with Grand Valley on this project."
President Thomas J. Haas said the project aligns with the university's mission. "It was our students who pushed for more action to protect our environment and reduce our carbon footprint," said Haas. "The solar gardens will provide educational and research opportunities for our students and faculty."
The solar gardens will serve as an extension of the classroom for faculty and students. Thanks to a $55,000 grant from Consumers Energy, students and faculty members will design and build two transportable, solar energy-producing modules this summer. Consumers Energy will provide a $20,000 grant each year for the next six years for proposed interdisciplinary projects and curriculum, including a new course and a first-responder training program.
For more information about the Solar Gardens program, visit www.consumersenergy.com/solargardens.