Peter Nuttall – It seemed fitting to have the sun shining Tuesday afternoon as John Kinch, executive director of Michigan Energy Options, took to the podium behind the old landfill at Burcham Park.
“Do you know the odds of it being sunny this time of year?” Kinch joked. “We should thank the sun gods for this occasion.”
Standing next to Kinch was East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett, and other local officials. They announced the building of the first of two community solar parks in the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s (BWL) service territory. The first of the planned two solar parks will be built right on the retired landfill site at Burcham Park.
“East Lansing has always prided itself on its’ environmental leadership,” Triplett said. “I can’t think of a more powerful symbol of that leadership than taking a trouble spot in our community, the Burcham Park landfill, and transitioning it into a clean community solar facility.”
The proposed solar panel park on the old landfill will have 1,000 solar panels. Each panel is rated at 300 watts. The solar parks will allow BWL electric customers to obtain solar power energy without having to install solar panels onto their homes or businesses.
“About 80 percent of buildings are not good candidates for solar on their roofs for all kinds of reasons,” Kinch said. “One of those reasons is siting, another is the quality of the roof.”
Annual electricity production of the Burcham Park community solar array will be around 385,000 kilowatt-hours. That is enough energy to power 55 average households for a year.
Participants will sign a 25-year lease and pay an upfront cost of $399 per solar panel. They can lease more than one panel if they wish to do so. The city of East Lansing was the first to lease a solar panel — they leased 10 of them.
Triplett said they intend for this to be a place where people can come and learn about solar energy and the benefits of it as well. It’s not going to be just a place where people get energy for their homes or businesses.
“This is part of a long term plan that we’ve had in the city of East Lansing in a number of steps we’ve taken to make ourselves a leader in environmental sustainability,” he said.
BWL’s general manager Dick Peffleysaid customers surveyed in the past said they wanted renewables but they didn’t want to pay extra money for it.
However, last year, residents responded favorably to an East Lansing Community Solar Survey. In the survey, 87 percent of 590 respondents agreed that they would support the city exploring the possibility of a community solar project.
“Now we’re hearing, ‘hey we’re willing to pay a few extra bucks a month,’” Peffley said. “So that really opens the door for us.”
Construction will begin in East Lansing once 80 percent of the panels have been leased. After that, they’ll begin building the second park located in Lansing. Credits will be issued to individuals’ electricity bills. The panels are expected to pay for themselves within about 10 years, according to an article by the Lansing State Journal.
“My wife and I are personally very much looking forward to being right atop the list, as well and getting the benefits of this community solar installation,” Triplett said.