Michigan solar power farm not your typical father-son project…

Solar power in Michigan? Really?

While it’s probably not the last state you’d associate with solar power (that’s  Alaska), Michigan likely appears far down on your list of places ideal for a large-scale solar power installation. Attorney Sam Fields, his son Connor, and two other partners hope to prove you wrong with their 700-panel array in Galesburg.

The Fields and their partners built the solar farm with a million dollar investment, and a lot of sweat equity: Sam and Connor “designed, cut, drilled and welded every piece of steel and spent hours calculating where the sun’s shadow would fall on the panels.”

Why’d they put in all of this work? Local utility Consumers Energy needs to meet a 10% renewable power mandate from the state, and has established a program that pays renewable producers 45 to 65 cents per kilowatt hour. The Fields’ installation is the largest so far that will provide power to the utility.

Will it pay off? “No one knows,” according to Sam. “Our goal is not to lose money.” But a solar array in Michigan isn’t as crazy as it sounds. According to Fields, the state’s cooler temperatures provide an advantage: solar panels can lose efficiency once the thermometer passes 75 degrees. And Mark Bauer, the owner of Michigan-based Bauer Power, adds that “the state’s peak sun energy averages 3 1/2 to 4 hours a day on an annual basis” — an hour more than world solar leader Germany. Even the snow helps, since it reflects sunlight back on to the panels.

You definitely have to admire the can-do spirit here. Know of other small players working their way into the renewable energy market like this? Tell us about them…

via the Detroit Free Press

Image credit: Currin Corporation and NREL/DOE