A newly activated solar array will help Grand Rapids with its renewable energy efforts.
City officials and partners on Thursday, June 9, flipped the switch on a 0.9-megawatt, 2.95-acre solar array at the city’s Lake Michigan Filtration Plant (LMFP) property, at 17350 Lake Michigan Drive in West Olive.
The array will help power the plant by generating 1.5 million kilowatt hours per year, or roughly 10% of LMFP’s electricity consumption.
Thanks to the installation, the Grand Rapids Water Department will save an estimated net $1.55 million over 24 years.
In addition, the project is expected to increase the city’s renewable energy performance from 37.5% to 41%, helping the city move toward its goal of 100% renewable energy for municipal operations by 2025.
Alison Waken Sutter, Grand Rapids’ sustainability and performance management officer, recommended the array in 2020 and referred to it as a “pinnacle project” with multiple benefits.
“Behind-the-meter solar can be an economically viable option for energy production and one that improves air quality, decreases carbon emissions and enhances climate resilience,” she said. “This project is a great example of the city’s commitment to sustainability as a core value.”
The array was made possible by a collaboration with Michigan-based CMS Energy. This fall, CMS Energy also will coordinate the planting of a pollinator field with native wildflowers and grasses around the panels.
Brian Rich, senior vice president and chief customer officer at CMS Energy, said the project supports the company’s commitment to protecting the planet and to customer success.
“When a customer like the city of Grand Rapids takes a stand to actually lead on sustainability, it gives us great pride to play a meaningful role in that,” Rich said. “For CMS Energy to be the one constructing this and bringing it to reality is a true joy.”
Sutter also said the city will continue to assess a solar opportunity at the Butterworth Landfill, which the city shifted away from after a contract fell through and once the pandemic impacted finances.
Since 2018, the city and its energy advisory committee (EAC) have been evaluating the costs and benefits of solar installation at eight facilities and properties.