Solar park being developed in East Lansing

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More solar power is coming to East Lansing. The Lansing Board of Water and Light and Michigan Energy Options are collaborating to do so.

Residential and commercial customers in the area have asked the Lansing Board of Water and Light about when they can use solar energy.

John Krzystowczyk, energy analyst at the Lansing Board of Water and Light, emphasized that there was interest in East Lansing, discovered through a survey conducted through Michigan Clean Water Action. The solar panels are to be in Burcham Park.

“There were a few different locations, to be honest. We kept coming back to Burcham Park. We wanted to start with East Lansing because the responses were overwhelmingly positive in East Lansing and we got a lot of responses just from East Lansing,” said Krzytowczyk.

Burcham Park was formerly a landfill, which makes it the perfect place to put the solar panels because there was no competition in purchasing the land.

“We’re doing a ballasted system there, where we’re setting the panels on cement. We’re not doing any excavating or digging. We’re just setting the cement ballast blocks on top of the ground so that we’re not digging anything up,” said Jeff Mathie, CEO of Patriot Solar Group.

Krzytowczyk said, “There was a big process to look at different solar developers in the area. One of the reasons we did it through a third party instead of us building it ourselves is that since we’re a non-profit organization. We wouldn’t be able to obtain the tax credit. We needed a third-party who is for-profit so that we could get the tax credit. We wanted to get the price point for the panels under $400, and without the tax credit we wouldn’t have been able to get to that point,” said Krzytowczyk.

This solar energy park allows residents to purchase panels. Companies may purchase panels, as well. The only requirement is that they are an electricity customer of the Lansing Board of Water and Light because the credit from the panel must go on the electric bill.

“We’re going to have 1,000 panels when it is finally built, and that will be feeding right into our distribution lines. So it will just be going back into the grid for the Board of Water and Light,” said Krzytowczyk. “The way the leasing program works is, customers will lease one or more panels and then they would receive credit based on the production of that panel, or those panels, on their electric bill.”

The company is trying to ensure that consumers are aware of the solar park and that solar panels are available for lease.

“We’re doing a lot of speaking engagements, we go to a lot of farmer’s markets, things like that. We’re kind of doing small presentations on it. We’re also broadcasting on our BWL Facebook. And there’s a little trifold brochure that’s in the electric bill, so when people open their electric bill they see what’s happening with that,” said Krzytowczyk.

Solar energy is a popular form of renewable energy and the solar park is beneficial for those who do not own their own home or whose house is covered in shade.

“Solar energy has grown exponentially in the last three years. Not only our business but solar energy, in general, has become very popular because of the cost reduction. The cost of solar energy is now 75 percent cheaper than it was even five years ago. It has now become the cheapest form of energy, along with wind,” said Mathie.

Outreach Coordinator, Chelsea Stein wishes everyone would be a consumer of solar energy.

“We’d like to encourage people to become solar champions. It’s a great way for people to become more educated and educate those around them as well. It’s a great way to become solar without having to invest and put solar on your own roof. When you participate in that, you’re connecting with others who would like to support solar as well. This is the Greater Lansing region’s first community solar park, so that’s pretty exciting too,” said Stein.