Grand Rapids’ solar-powered nightlife

Shelby Pendowski

One of Grand Rapids’ many music venues, The Pyramid Scheme, joined the green initiative by installing rooftop solar panels to power their facility.

“We always planned on trying to take a big step on decreasing our carbon foot print,” said Carolyn Schaut, office manager of The Pyramid Scheme and The Meanwhile, a popular watering hole in Grand Rapid’s East Town.

The Wealthy Theatre, also located in East Town, installed panels at their facility in 2013 and their go-green attitude impacted Tami and Jeff VandenBerg, owners of The Pyramid Scheme and The Meanwhile, to take the plunge to invest in solar panels.

“They just kind of gave us a heads up that technology has come a long way,” Schaut said. “We were concerned about the environmental impact and influence of the businesses.”

Seventy-two panels were placed on the roof of the music venue, located on Commerce Street, to produce 30 percent of the venue’s energy. An additional 24 panels were installed at The Meanwhile to produce 40 percent of the building’s energy.

“When we got word from the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability that there was a program that we could finance the panels with little money down we found out it was viable for us,” Schaut said.

To install and purchase the panels, the VandenBergs worked with the Alliance for Environmental Sustainabilty and SRInergy.

Since the panels are financed, they are paid on monthly. With help from SRInergy, the monthly payments on the units are equal to the businesses’ savings produced by the panels. Therefore, the business is paying their average energy cost, but instead of it all being paid to Consumers Energy, part of it funds the panels.

The panels will remain on the rooftops year round and any problems will be detected through a computer program. The panels require little up-keep, Schaut said.

On June 25, the venue unveiled the new look with a Solar Power Celebration event. The Meanwhile, located on Wealthy Street, also revealed their new solar panels in June.

About 250 people attended the event to learn about the businesses’ green initiatives and to get more information on the program.

Since their unveiling, many businesses in the city have inquired about the solar panels and are looking into installing their own, according to Schaut. Although the panels help the two businesses and the environment, they also have fulfilled the hope of inspiring Grand Rapids businesses to become greener.

“The VandenBergs have always been really environmental minded … and this was a big step they could take,” Schaut said. “The efficiency and the price of the panels has come a long way.”

It was about sustaining the world we live in for the VandenBergs, and they hope to inspire more businesses to take a chance on going green.

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