Creating shared community solar energy systems -- workshops offered at Muskegon's MAREC

What's involved in creating a community-based shared solar energy system? That's the broad question that will be answered at a series of workshops offered at Grand Valley State University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) this month.

The workshops, which began July 9 but are still open for anyone to attend, allow participants to pick the brains of some of the top innovators in alternative energy while learning about how to create a solar energy system that will benefit entire communities, not just one home or business.

Community solar systems might be created by a neighborhood, a business district, a church, or an organization. Members invest in building the system on a particular site, the energy generated is sold to the utility grid, and the income is either credited to the members on their energy bill or they receive a payment for it.

"It's like a community garden," says Kim Walton, MAREC program director. "They finance the solar panels and install them on a brownfield site or in a park. Everybody puts in a little and everybody gets back a little. It's a really nice option for people who don't own their own home or don't have a good solar site because they have too many trees or some other obstacle."

The workshops will cover case studies, utility company policies, regulations, site selection, business models, methods for organizing communities, and more.

Workshop leaders include: Anya Schoolman, founder of the Community Power Network, Washington D.C.; Sara Bronin, program director for the Center for Energy and Environmental Law, University of Connecticut; Kim Walton, MAREC; Mark Clevey, Michigan Energy Office; John Sarver, Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association; Rachel Johnson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative; and David Konkle, community solar project coordinator, Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, and others.

The workshops are co-sponsored by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association and take place every Thursday in July, from 6 - 9 p.m. The cost is $60 whether you attend one workshop or all five. For more information, contact Kim Walton at [email protected] or (616) 331-6907.

Source: Kim Walton, Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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