Burcham Park will soon make room for a solar park

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By Gabriella Galloway
Entirely East Lansing


Future home to community solar park. (Burcham Park)

East Lansing will soon be home to a solar park, located in the corner of Burcham Park.

Board of Water and Light (BWL) customers will have the opportunity to lease panels from the city-owned park. Each panel costs $399; once all panels are leased the construction of them will cost around $390,000.
According to John Kinch, Executive Director of Michigan Energy Options, Burcham Park is what is known as a “capped landfill.”

“By locating solar panels on these areas, it is going to impact the integrity of the landfill and keeps the landfill environmentally safe,” said Kinch.

The Environmental Protection Agency goes into the choosing of land for these solar panels, and for East Lansing, Burcham Park seemed to make the most sense. They chose a landfill to hold solar panels in Eden Rapids as well, said Kinch.

According to Kinch, the location was also chosen so that the people of East Lansing could easily go out and see the park.

“We want to encourage people to go out and look at it,” said Kinch. “We will be giving tours and education about how it works because we want to encourage people to feel good about having solar power in their community.”

The solar panels in Burcham Park will only take up around one acre of the 24-acre park. The rest will still be open and safe for community members to use as normal, said Kinch.

Kinch said the solar park will have three major benefits: environmental, social and economic.

The environmental benefits include the fact that BWL customers will be able to take advantage of renewable energy.

“Reducing reliance on fossil fuel energy is a positive,” said Catherine DeShambo, the environmental services administrator for the city of East Lansing. “As this park is a former landfill, the space is not able to be utilized as a typical park.”

Socially, people in the community feel better and proud to be a part of a community that is striving for solutions to the problems of the environment, said Kinch.

According to DeShambo, residents have expressed positive interest in the project and community solar in general.

“We are an environmentally conscious and progressive community and are always looking for ways to improve life in East Lansing,” said DeShambo.

Economically, “customers will receive a credit on their BWL bill for the amount of solar power their panel produces,” said Stephen Serkaian, executive director of public affairs at BWL.

“We estimate that one 300-watt panel will provide an on-bill credit of around $25 for the year,” said Kinch.

The leases last for 25 years and it’s estimated that leasees will see a “payback” by 12 years through their bill credits, said Kinch.

Customers who choose to invest in a panel will do so through the solar company.
Ground will break in the park once 80 percent of the 1,000 panels are leased, said Serkaian. According to Kinch, they are hoping to start building in the early summer.

To sign up to participate in homegrown renewable energy, visit micommunitysolar.org.

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