Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another Michigan Community Aims to Follow the Sun

While it is disappointing to see the news that the state has approved the air permit for the expansion of the coal plant in Holland, you can look around and find that in other places, progress is still happening. Tittabawassee Township is the latest community to look at installing renewable energy, and if all goes as planned it could become the largest municipal solar application in the state.

Private investors are behind the project. On the surface, it doesn't look like the math works out - but keep in mind they sell the power back to Consumers at a premium per kw hour, and those figures aren't included here. Over a 20-year contract they more than make the initial investment back, and the community saves money on energy at the same time.

Members of the Board of Trustees hosted a presentation Tuesday given by Michael Dergis and Wim van Acker of Van Acker Associates, a financial advisory company from Bloomfield Hills; and Binger Winchell and Bill Gagliardi of The Green Panel Inc., a solar technology and installation company from Brighton.

"The township may save up to $170,000 in energy costs over the lifetime of the program under a 20-year contract," Dergis said. "The government is requiring 10 percent of energy must be generated by renewable sources by 2015."

The township could allow investors in solar technology to finance panels, installed atop the Freeland SportsZone, 5690 Midland Road; on the grounds of the Tittabawassee Township Waste Water Treatment Plant; and at the township reservoir.

The panels would generate electricity for Consumers Energy, and the township would receive about $10,000 a year.

Dergis said discussions also have started with MBS International Airport for a similar installation.

The $4.1 million program is financed by outside investors who would own the solar installations for the duration of the contract, with an option to renew the agreement or turn ownership over to the township, Dergis said.

All of this is contingent on that contract with CE to purchase the power - and this is where a higher RPS would have come in handy. Imagine investors setting up projects like this all over the state, and Consumers signing on so they could meet a higher target...

An agreement will have to be worked out with Consumers Energy if the township moves ahead with the project.

The proposed solar installation is an 822 kilowatt-peak, a measurement of solar peak output, split between the waste water treatment plant at 500 kWp, supplying 90 percent of its electricity; the reservoir at 90 kWp, about 75 percent of its electrical needs. The Freeland SportsZone, limited by rooftop space, would get 232 kWp, meeting about 35 percent of its electricity.

Keep it up, people. We will beat back those nasty coal plants some day. It's inevitable. Bottom line: Why would you want to keep purchasing out-of-state coal, when you can produce power like this with little to no effort?