By Jane Wagner
Entirely East Lansing
The Lansing Board of Water and Light announced its plan to construct two community solar parks in its service area. East Lansing’s Burcham Park, a retired landfill site, has been designated for the first park. The second will be adjacent to the BWL Wise Road Water Treatment Plant in Lansing.
“It’s a powerful sign of progress,” said East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett. The landfill has been a “trouble spot” for the city, and this project will give the area a completely new purpose and source of life.
There will be 1,000 solar panels installed at each location. Each panel produces 300 watts of power daily, for a total of 300 kilowatts produced by each park. Annually, one park will produce enough energy to power roughly 55 average households for the year, which is equivalent to 385,000 kilowatt-hours.
BWL customers are eligible to lease a panel for 25 years. It will cost $399 per panel, and lessees will receive credit on their BWL electric bills for the amount of energy produced by the panel.
“This is a pretty low-cost, low-risk endeavor,” said Michigan Energy Options Executive Director John Kinch. “It’s $16 per year over 25 years. It’s affordable, as simple as possible, as accessible as possible and we have made it local, which is great for local energy.”
Once 80 percent of the panels have been leased, construction will begin at Burcham Park. The city has vowed to lease 10 panels, and BWL customers can pre-register to lease their own.
“Our intention is to make sure we have the demand,” said Kinch. “We didn’t want to end up with something that under delivers. We are thinking if we can at least get to a certain point, we can be confident that we’ll be successful.”
The project was proposed in response to a community solar survey sent out by the city of East Lansing’s Commission on the Environment. Eighty-seven percent of respondents supported the city looking into its own community solar project.
There has been an increase in households using rooftop solar panels, but some roofs are unable to support the weight. The community solar project gives those households alternative access to renewable solar power.
“Our new Community Solar Program will continue to provide BWL customers with cleaner energy, as we remain committed to providing energy efficiency and renewable energy to our customers,” said BWL General Manager Dick Peffley.
Once the 80 percent capacity benchmark has been reached, the solar company, Patriot Solar, will begin construction. This is expected to happen in the next few weeks.
“The window for construction will be a couple months, perhaps less,” said Kinch. “All things considered, it would be nice to think once we emerge out of dull, gray winter, we can give people an opportunity to come look at our first completed park and they’ll begin leasing panels for the Lansing park.”
“The thing about community solar is it can be located in a community where it makes sense,” said Kinch. “It benefits the local economy, it has social benefits, it benefits the environment and community members want this. It’s a clean, homegrown, renewable resource that helps the sustainability of our community.”