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East Lansing Food Co-op (Michigan) to Feed The Grid with Solar Project

East Lansing Food Co-op to sell solar power

Rooftop panels to be installed this winter

Written by
Dawn Parker

Rachel Adams, business office/project manager for the East Lansing Food Co-Op, and general manager Dave Finet, photographed in front of ELFCO’s Northwind Drive location Nov. 13. ELFCO is one of five businesses in mid-Michigan to be chosen for an innovative new solar energy program. / Photo by Dawn Parker
EAST LANSING — It’s hard to think seriously about capturing the sun’s energy during the winter.
But one local business is not only thinking about it, it is actually getting help from Consumers Energy to do it.
East Lansing Food Co-Op, 4960 Northwind Drive, has become one of five businesses and 16 residential customers statewide to enter the utility’s Experimental Advanced Renewables Program.
Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop said the EARP program has its origin in an energy reform law passed by the Michigan Legislature in 2008 and signed by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
A portion of the law, Bishop added, requires all utilities to have 10 percent of their energy come from renewable sources by 2015.
The EARP program has been in place two years, and participants like ELFCO have to submit a qualified project which meets particular technical specifications.
Consumers Energy’s 5-megawatt program now has 2.6 megawatts in place or ready to put in place, Bishop said. While solar power is only a small slice of Michigan energy supply now, it has a lot of interest and is expected to grow steadily.
ELFCO business office manager Rachel Adams said the co-op plans to install solar panels on the roof of the community space in between the store and A Piece ‘o Cake at 4966 Northwind Drive.
The panels — the exact number is still being determined — will have up to a 4 kilowatt total generated capacity and a predicted output of 6,500 kilowatt hours annually. Generated energy will be bought by Consumers at double the market rate, a perk of the EARP, to offset ELFCO’s carbon output.
Adams said 6,500 Kwh represents nearly half of ELFCO’s annual power usage. What ELFCO receives from Consumers will help the co-op offset the $30,000 upfront cost for the solar panels, which are expected to pay for themselves in about seven years.
The power generated will be made available for sale to customers who can draw from the program “if they wish to purchase green energy,” Adams said.
The solar panel project has been in the works for about a year with the help of Bryan Benton of Lansing-based Alternative Electric, which handled much of the work on the co-op’s extensive renovation in 2011.
Benton installed LED lights in the remodel, which is “already saving us a ton of energy,” said Adams.
“We’ve always talked about, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be nice … We’re the co-op, it would be lovely to do something like solar panels or get into green energy a little bit,” Adams said. “(Bryan) was exactly the guy to do it.”
ELFCO is also working with former Greater Lansing Food Bank executive director Terry Link and his new venture, Starting Now LLC, which addresses sustainability consulting, research and education.
Source: Lansing State Journal 

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