GV, Consumers Energy partner for solar garden

GVL / Courtesy - Metro Connection

GVL / Courtesy – Metro Connection

Hannah Lentz and Audra Gamble

On July 10, members of the Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees approved the building of solar panels on seven to 14 acres of university property.

The project is set to be completed in 2016 and will be located on the southwestern edge of GVSU’s Allendale Campus, south of Pierce Avenue near 48th Avenue.

The solar garden will be constructed as part of a partnership with Consumers Energy.

“The project is quite exciting,” said Jim Bachmeier, vice president for finance and administration at GVSU. “Consumers Energy and Grand Valley are going to do a joint project. Our part is to provide some farmland, and their part of the project is to build a solar garden of approximately two megawatts.”

The energy generated by the solar garden will be utilized by Consumers Energy customers, mainly GVSU. The university will be offered to buy one half of the first megawatt produced by the solar garden.

Consumers Energy will be responsible for the construction and operating costs.

“It will be owned and operated by Consumers, we don’t have to deal with the maintenance of it,” Bachmeier said. “This is a 25-year agreement, and will have significant impact on our environmental footprint. I can’t wait to share this with students and student government.”

This is Consumers Energy’s first course of action regarding solar energy.

John Russell, CEO of Consumer’s Energy, also sits on the GVSU Board of Trustees. However, Russel was not a part of the discussion or voting on this particular project. At the board meeting, Russell recused himself from the room for the duration of the solar garden discussion.

According to Michigan law, utilities must get 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

Consumers will give GVSU up to $48,000 in educational equipment and will pay $20,000 in curriculum costs for six years. Consumers is paying GVSU about $110,000 for the value of the farmland for 25 years. According to the agreement, GVSU will buy power from the solar field for 25 years (totaling $1.3 million).