Trustees OK 'solar garden' plans for Parkview Campus

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A move by the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees Aug. 14 paves the way for Consumers Energy to plant a "solar garden," to harvest clean solar energy with a photovoltaic array on the grounds of the WMU College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Trustees approved a recommendation to allow the University to enter into a series of individual agreements that could grant a 9.62-acre parcel to Consumers Energy for construction of the solar garden PV array in an area along U.S. 131 and immediately west of the engineering complex. 

About the project

A solar garden on the campus would be among the first large-scale solar projects Consumers Energy will build around the state. They are part of an effort called Solar Gardens and are expected to be operational in 2016. The electricity produced by solar gardens will be delivered to the Consumers distribution system. Consumer Energy’s electric customers can receive solar energy credits from the program. Learn more at consumersenergy.com/solargardens.

The University plans to participate in the program as part of its Consumers Energy agreement and would receive energy credits in the coming years. The agreement also has the potential to generate solar energy education initiatives.

"There's a tremendous amount of synergy built into this entire effort," says Peter J. Strazdas, WMU associate vice president for facilities management. "This is state-of-the-art technology being developed on our engineering campus and adjacent to our Business Technology and Research Park. It will further WMU's image as a sustainable university and help support both education and service on several levels."

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy is Michigan’s largest energy provider, serving 6.6 million Michigan residents throughout the Lower Peninsula. The company last year met Michigan’s renewable energy standard of 10 percent, one year ahead of schedule. It also was named as one of the 15 most sustainable energy providers in a worldwide survey last year.

If the garden project is fully implemented, Consumers has committed to provide WMU with $120,000 in funding over six years for a Solar Learning Module that will educate WMU students, provide exposure to K-12 students and train emergency first responders in how to deal with solar arrays. Consumers also will provide $55,000 for WMU to construct up to three additional solar systems for research and educational use by faculty and students.

For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.

Other news from the August 2015 Board of Trustees meeting
Building purchase OK'd for expansion of WMU's autism center | Aug. 17, 2015
Trustees agree to 18-month extension on Cole-Gilmore property | Aug. 14, 2015
Trustees approve new three-year contract with AFSCME | Aug. 14, 2015