Let the sun shine


Photo of a solar panel in front of CEAS

The Consumers Energy solar array at Western Michigan University’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences now is up and running, transforming 8.5 acres at the Parkview campus into a new source of renewable energy for Michigan.

The 1-megawatt solar power plant on WMU’s property is Consumers Energy’s second large-scale solar project in Michigan. A 3-megawatt solar power plant opened at Grand Valley State University in April.

“This outstanding project is good for our region, our state and our residents,” said Dr. Houssam Toutanji, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “But it also provides an excellent learning opportunity for our students and faculty.”

As part of a partnership with Consumers Energy, the college received two grants that support solar energy education.

Funding of $120,000 over six years will be used to prepare and present Solar Learning Modules that will be used to educate WMU students as well as educate and inspire students in grades K-12 about solar energy. It will also be used to educate community groups with initial learning modules focusing on firefighter and first-responder training and safety when encountering solar arrays.

The college also received a $55,000 grant from Consumers that has allowed it to construct two smaller solar arrays in a WMU educational solar garden. “Our students and faculty will use these in research and education, collecting and using data from the educational arrays,” said Dr. Brad Bazuin, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who has been closely involved in the project.

 “Groups will be able to get up close and even hands-on with the array’s elements and electrical components,” he said. “We’ll be offering free educational seminars next summer too.”

Toutanji said the public-private partnership is an excellent way to learn about alternative energy and shows the college and university’s commitment to sustainability.