KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Consumers Energy joined with Western Michigan University Sept. 16 to mark the opening of its second solar power plant—an 8.5-acre array of solar panels on the University's campus that produces enough electricity for 200 Michigan homes and businesses.
The 1-megawatt solar power plant is the energy provider's second large-scale solar project in Michigan and the first actually located on a college campus. It joins a 3-megawatt solar power plant that opened in April on property owned by Grand Valley State University.
Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe, WMU President John M. Dunn, and other Michigan and University officials celebrated with a ribbon cutting and simulated connection of the new plant to the power grid in a ceremony at WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The more than 4,000 solar panels that make up the solar garden are positioned around the college.
"We are committed to a sustainable future for Michigan, which is why we built this power plant as part of our Solar Gardens program," said Poppe. "We’re a different kind of company—leaving our environment better than we found it every day. New renewable energy sources are vital to Michigan’s future."
The solar gardens offer community members an opportunity to support and invest in solar energy by subscribing to the project and earning energy credits toward monthly bills that are based on the electricity generated by solar garden locations. Poppe pointed out that the program allows those who aren't able to install solar panels of their own an opportunity to support renewable energy and reduce their carbon footprint.
Fueling research, education
For the University, Dunn noted during the ceremony, the partnership with Consumers led to the establishment of a smaller set of solar panels that will be used by faculty and students for research. It also allows WMU to use the solar facility for educational purposes such as training WMU students, exposing K-12 students to the way solar energy works and developing training for first responders who need to know how to handle solar power in emergency situations.
"We'll use the opportunity provided by our partnership with Consumers Energy for education and research," said Dunn. "It will help turn the attention of communities like this one to the potential of solar power."
Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, providing natural gas and electricity to 6.7 million of the state's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties. The company's Solar Gardens program goal is to supply power for up to 2,000 Michigan homes.
For more information about Consumer Energy solar gardens, visit consumersenergy.com/solargardens.
For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.
Important outdoor projects completed this summer | Sept. 20, 2016