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'Community' solar array being built in Cass County

(WNDU)
Published: Oct. 3, 2018 at 5:41 PM EDT
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The push is on to cut the carbon out of power production.

A “community” project in Cass County is designed to bring down the cost of supporting solar generation.

Perhaps the idea of solar power has found a special place in your heart, but there’s just no room on the roof for panels of your own.

“Community solar is basically a way for homeowners who might not have a south-facing roof or the means to purchase a $10,000 or $20,000 system to participate in solar and get paid for it,” said Sam Hogg with Spartan Renewable Energy.

There will be just fewer than 2,500 solar panels at a community solar facility now under construction along M-62 at Decatur Road.

One at a time, each panel will be offered to customers of Midwest Energy and Communications at a subscription price of $600.

“We’re not telling people this is a great way to reduce your electric bill, we’re not telling them that they can make some money. What we’re telling them, this is a way to participate in the environmental aspect of energy production,” Midwest Energy and Communications President and CEO Robert Hance said.

The energy produced at the community solar facility will be split among the solar subscribers who will get a corresponding credit on their electric bills.

The program is expected to generate about $40 in credits each year, or enough to break even on a 15-year panel subscription.

It remains to be seen if the program will be a success, although it comes from a power supply partner that is something of a leader in the area.

“Wolverine (Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative) leads the state as far as electric providers. We have a state mandate of 15 percent renewable in our portfolio, Wolverine’s already got 20 percent,” Hance said.

Midwest Energy and Communications serves rural customers in 15 counties in Michigan (including Berrien, Cass and Van Buren) and eight counties in Indiana (including St. Joseph, Elkhart and LaGrange).

Indiana Michigan Power offers similar renewable energy programs and says “several hundred” customers are enrolled.

Midwest’s subscription fee can be paid all at once or in $10 monthly installments over five years. People choosing the one-time payment option are eligible for a $150 rebate per panel, up to 20 panels, through Michigan’s Energy Optimization program.

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