Calvin University partners with solar company

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Tim Fennema, vice president of administration and finance for Calvin University, left, and
Kelly Hipskind, co-founder of Sun FundED. Courtesy Calvin University

A Grand Rapids university is the first in Michigan to pursue solar-as-a-service to accelerate its transfer to clean energy. 

Calvin University recently announced its partnership with Sun FundED, a Carmel, Indiana-based company offering solar energy programs to education institutions, and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to begin the evaluation phase of the partnership. 

Sun FundED’s solar-as-a-service model will provide all the technical expertise to help the university qualify for the company to invest, build and operate the solar array without Calvin having to lay out any capital for the project. Solar-as-a-service has a “pay-as-you-go” model where the university will lower and lock in a long-term rate.

Solar-as-a-service is designed to make solar energy the easiest and most valuable way for educational institutions to cut operating expenses and mitigate risks while supporting sustainability and educating students about green power. Calvin University is free to focus on education while its partnership with Sun FundED begins the process of a solar energy transition.

Tim Fennema, Calvin University’s vice president of administration and finance, signed the MOU during Wiebe Boer’s first week as president of the university.

Kelly Hipskind, a co-founder of Sun FundED, was brought into meetings with Calvin early in the partnership process to better understand how implementing solar can support the university’s sustainability goals.

“I have met with thousands of school leaders across the country over my career serving schools, and I must say, Calvin University from the very first meeting had one of the clearest visions for renewables and energy efficiency of any school I have ever met with,” Hipskind said.  “We aligned in every aspect of our respective organizations immediately, and Sun FundED is thrilled to help Calvin qualify for our investment and services as we build on this partnership in the coming months and help them achieve their sustainability goals.”

Added Matt Heun, a professor of engineering at Calvin and a thought leader in the environmental sustainability space: “Calvin University’s commitment to sustainability spans decades. We are a leader in this space among Christian higher ed institutions, and we will continue to provide leadership through our teaching, research and scholarship. This exploratory MOU demonstrates our commitment to lead by example.”

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