Ground-breaking held for Solar panel installation

Update: The ground-breaking ceremony was held Monday, Nov. 15.

The ceremony took place on the extreme eastern side of the campus, behind the L building and observatory. The solar panel installation is expected to be completed by February.

“We plan to invest $100 million in our SolarCurrents program, and we hope that investment will reap economic development opportunities that students at Monroe County Community College will be able to pursue after they finish their studies,” said Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president of marketing and renewables. 

“It’s all about jobs, and this is yet another in a string of jobs-education partnerships between DTE Energy and MCCC,” MCCC President David Nixon said.

“Two years ago, DTE Energy helped MCCC launch a nuclear engineering technology program. A year later with DTE’s assistance, MCCC launched the heavy and industrial construction certificate program. In May, the DTE Energy Foundation announced a $45,000 grant and additional in-kind donation of solar equipment to MCCC in support of curriculum development to establish an alternative/renewable energy program.

“And now, DTE Energy has stepped forward again, partnering with MCCC to develop a classroom on campus for students interested in learning about solar power. This solar array is an instructional opportunity for which MCCC would not have had funding sources, so we applaud the $3 million investment DTE is making on our campus. We are focused on jobs for the future, and DTE has made significant contributions to those learning opportunities on the campus of Monroe County Community College.”


MCCC is looking up to the sun.

Upon approval from the Monroe Charter Township Planning Commission, Detroit Edison will break ground Nov. 15 for a $3 million solar panel installation.

“MCCC is one of four organizations that have signed up to host solar facilities for DTE Energy,” DTE spokesman Scott Simons said.

The 500-kilowatt system, which will be built on the east side of campus behind the L building and observatory, is a part of Detroit Edison’s SolarCurrents program, which calls for photovoltaic systems to be installed on customer property or rooftops to generate 15 megawatts of electricity throughout Southeast Michigan over the next five years. Detroit Edison is a subsidiary of DTE Energy.

Detroit Edison needed about 3 acres of land that was clear of shade and facing south, MCCC’s director of the Physical Plant, Jim Blumberg, said.

“That was almost a natural spot,” Blumberg said of the location chosen.

“This will be the “show and tell” on Solar power,” MCCC President David Nixon wrote in an email. “DTE is installing the 3-acre array on campus for instructional purposes. Students as well as interested community members can see how they collect power from the sun, creating electricity. An electrical panel will be set up in the hallway so passers by can see the results.”

The college is currently the only educational institution that is part of the SolarCurrents program, Simons said.

“The State of Michigan passed a public act in 2008—Public Act 285—that requires all public utilities to produce 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. So this is one element of that for them [Detroit Edison]; wind power is another one. This is just an opportunity for a partnership, for some education, outreach,” Blumberg said.

The solar panels are expected to be operational in February, Darrick Whitaker, principal engineer for major engineering projects at DTE Energy, said.

The panels are being built by DTE to supplement their electrical grid, Blumberg said. They are going to be tied directly to their grid, and be fed to the power lines that run behind MCCC’s campus.

“It’s like building a small power plant here on our campus,” Blumberg said.

The power produced by the panels will not be used directly by the college, Blumberg said. The power will be used by the community as a whole.

“This will be a great learning opportunity for our students, knowing that we will be having an operational solar panel array on our campus; especially for our future alternative energy course offerings and existing electronics/ power technology programs at the college,” Peter Coomar, MCCC’s dean of the Industrial Technology Division, wrote in an email.

Coomar also wrote about the usefulness of the information kiosk that will report the output characteristics for the solar panel array in real time.

Students in the construction management area of MCCC’s tech division will also be able to learn about the installation and maintenance of the panels.

The solar project requires customers to participate for 20 years. It will be owned, installed, operated, and maintained by Detroit Edison. Customers will receive an annual payment or credit on their energy bill based on the system size, as well as a one-time, upfront construction payment to cover any inconvenience during installation.

MCCC and Detroit Edison announced their signing of the 20-year agreement in July.

Along with the solar installation at MCCC, one that is similar will be hosted by the Ford Motor Company at its assembly plant in Wayne, as well as a $1 million, 200-kilowatt solar installation that will be built on the roof of a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan parking structure in Detroit.

A 60-watt solar installation on DTE Energy property in Scio Township will be completed next month. It is replacing a photovoltaic installation that had previously been completed in 1996.

“MCCC and Ford are the two largest systems that are participating right now,” Simons said.

“Future generations will benefit even more—as time goes by, the more electricity generated by the sun means less from coal which will reduce the carbon foot print,” Nixon said about the benefits of having the solar panels on campus.

“In the meantime we will learn how many new and different types of jobs will be created to manufacture and install solar panels.”

The Township Planning Commission will review the solar panel project at their Nov. 8 meeting.