The East Lansing Community Solar Park has a new award under its belt.
The 7th annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala held on Nov. 14 honored the park with the 2019 Project of the Year award.
"(This award) highlights ... ways to reduce our carbon footprint and investments into alternative energy and sustainability," Scott House, director of Public Works and Environmental Services, said.
Michigan Energy Options, or MEO, is the first statewide, non-profit organization and has been in business since 1978. Their work is as expansive as it is diverse, with projects and programs in all 83 counties of Michigan.
They were the first Michigan non-utility nonprofit to own and operate a major solar installation in the state.
“MEO, with partners, plans to build more community solar parks around the state and elsewhere," executive director of Michigan Energy Options John Kinch said. "And, like this one, we want to locate those on marginal lands — brownfields, capped landfills — so we’re not using green space and other lands that have a better purpose. ... This supports the city’s ambitions to use 100% renewable power and also support its Climate Sustainability Plan."
The Climate Sustainability Plan is a road map for local projects and policies aimed at reducing the city's emissions.
The completed solar park project in the city is one of only a handful of community solar park projects that have been successfully developed in the state.
"(The solar park) will not expand, that's a constrained site," House said. "But, there are other options we are looking at on how we can do this in a thoughtful way that will have both a positive environmental and financial impact to the city."
Over the life of the project, the East Lansing Community Solar Park will produce more than 10.9 million kilowatt-hours of clean, local and renewable energy.
Participating BWL customers are supporting the solar park and solar energy by leasing panels for multiple years at a time.
“The contract for this specific park is 25 years,” Kinch said. The park has 1,000 345-watt solar panels and is located at Burcham Park.
This is equivalent to the removal of carbon dioxide in the air that had been produced from burning 8.4 million pounds of coal, or driving nearly 19 million miles, or charging nearly 1 billion smartphones.
“Solar is durable and if those in charge in 25 years want to continue the park to produce solar, I’m sure it would be able to do so," Kinch said.