Solar project moves forward

The solar panels at MCCC are up and running, and now the school is looking to install a grid battery system.

The 500-kilowatt solar panel system started producing electricity in February.

“The solar panels started producing power at 1:31 p.m. on Feb. 22,” said Joe Verkennes, MCCC director of marketing.

Since the solar panels produce energy during the day but not at night, A123 Systems, an Ann Arbor energy company, wants to build a grid battery system to store the energy that is produced but not used.

“If it’s sunny and the cells are generating electricity and maybe the grid doesn’t need it, the battery stores the power and then puts it back to the grid when it needs it, when it’s not sunny,” said Jim Blumberg, the director of the physical plant.,

A grid battery system consists of three main components; a battery container, a chiller unit, and an inverter.

To house a system this size, a plot of 50 feet by 100 feet will be required, located about 25 feet east of the solar panels.

To meet the Michigan Public Service Commission and Department of Energy grant, the grid battery system will be required to be on campus for four years, until the end of 2015.

At the end of the four years, the battery system will be removed and the land will be restored to its original state.

MCCC is waiting on the request to amend the agreement with Detroit Edison to allow the A123 battery system to be built.

“If the request goes through, they are looking at starting in August 2011 and it will take about one month to complete,” Verkennes said.