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Michigan utility to launch residential solar energy program

National Guard solar field
U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia | Public Domain image

 Michigan residents interested in solar power as an energy source can soon do so right on their utility bills.

That’s the goal of a Consumers Energy residential solar pilot program which begins marketing efforts in the fall.

Roger Morgenstern is a senior public information director at the company. He says the community solar program looks to leverage the desire for clean energy with the demands of an effective business model.

"This is really our next step in renewable energy," Morgenstern says. "And it points to the importance of a Michigan-first energy policy. Where we can have the economic certainty here in Michigan, with full regulation, that we can make these types of decisions."

That next step is also physically in West Michigan.

The company plans to build a one-to-two megawatt, seven-to-14 acre solar garden at Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus. GVSU has agreed to pre-purchase 500 kilowatts, or about 7 percent of its utility usage by volume.

A second community solar garden is planned in the state, but not finalized. 

Morgenstern says the details and pricing of the residential program are still being worked out, but customers who opt-in would receive usage credits toward their utility use. And customers who don’t want to participate won’t see any changes to their bills.

“A customer can choose to purchase a certain amount of electricity – a portion of what they would use – from solar power," Morgenstern says. "There would be a premium associated with that because it is a more expensive form of electrical generation. But it is a clean source of generation, and it’s renewable energy.”

Construction of the solar garden is anticipated later this year with an operational date of late 2016.

You can learn more at consumersenergy.com/solargardens.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.