By Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle
MUSKEGON — Michigan’s climate isn’t perfect for producing solar-generated electricity, but federal incentives and a favorable rate by Consumers Energy have led to what will be a major solar panel installation at Torresen Marine.
Brian Torresen The Muskegon sailboat marine operation on Lakeshore Drive will be the home of a new 150-kilowatt solar array on Torresen’s 28,000-square-foot sailboat storage facility roof.
The $750,000 project is in partnership with Inovateus Solar of South Bend, Ind., and Chart House Energy of Chicago. Torresen is providing the roof and support for the first of a German solar technology to be installed in the United States. Installation of the 750 Scheuten Solar panels from Germany are to be completed by April 22 — Earth Day.
Project managers claim that it will be the largest solar project to date in Michigan. “We chose Scheuten Solar technology for this installation because their high-quality modules are a great application for solar power in the harsh environment of snow, ice and high winds near Lake Michigan,” Inovateus Solar Executive Vice President T.J. Kanczuzewski said.
The German-made panels are “photovoltaics” that transform sunlight directly into electrical current. That current will be sent through a transformer on site and purchased by Consumers Energy for 45 cents a kilowatt hour.
As a comparison, the typical homeowner pays just 10 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Consumers spokesman Jeff Holyfield. The advantageous rate being paid for the Torresen solar energy is made possible through a Consumers renewable energy surcharge of $2.50 a month for the typical residential customer, Holyfield said.
The surcharge was approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission and began in September as part of Consumers’ renewable energy program. Michigan has set a standard of 10 percent of electricity that must come from renewable sources such as solar, wind, bio-mass and hydroelectric by 2015.
Besides the favorable rate offered by Consumers, the Torresen project will receive a federal clean energy “stimulus” grant of 30 percent of the project cost and favorable federal renewable energy tax credits, according to Brian Torresen, co-owner of the family marine business. With those incentives, the solar project has a payback of 12 years, he said. “Solar fits perfectly with who we are,”
Torresen said of the marina’s recent certified environmental practices designation.
“Our sailboat customers are environmentally friendly. Our waterfront location was also a perfect fit for the technology Inovateus Solar specified for us, with the high winds keeping the snow off the panels.” Chart House Energy President Robert Rafson said his company approached Torresen because of its “clean and green” reputation.
The marine company has been in Muskegon since 1965 and sells and services all sizes of sailboats. It has a 150-slip marina, a large winter storage operation and an Internet parts sales division that distributes in 75 countries. The company is on a 17-acre site on Lakeshore Drive and employs 35.
Muskegon Mayor Steve Warmington said the Torresen solar project is another example of Muskegon’s leadership role in alternative energy.
“We have the Michigan Alternative Renewable Energy Center here in our Smart Zone, the potential of restarting the power facility in the old (Sappi Fine Paper) mill and other solar and wind power initiatives that are creating some momentum here in renewable energy,” the mayor said.
E-mail Dave Alexander at firstname.lastname@example.org