Consumers Energy is soaking up the sun for a sliver of its renewable energy obligations under Michigan’s 2008 energy law.
The company’s Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP) pays residential and non-residential customers to produce electricity from solar energy and deliver it to the grid.
About 100 customers, ranging from homeowners with small solar installations to businesses with larger operations, now are generating about 2 megawatts of electrical capacity that’s sold to the utility.
Purchasing that electricity helps Consumers Energy meet Michigan’s renewable energy standard, which requires that 10 percent of the state’s electrical supply comes from renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and hydro by 2015.
About 5 percent of the electricity Consumers Energy supplies to customers already comes from renewable sources. The company is in the process of doubling that total, which means adding nearly 650 megawatts of renewable energy capacity, mostly from wind.
Though solar is a relatively tiny slice of the pie, it does earn the company extra renewable energy credits toward meeting the 10-percent goal.
The company launched EARP in May 2009 and has signed contracts to buy the relatively small amount of solar-generated electricity over a 12-year period. The goal is to investigate solar energy’s potential in Michigan’s often cold and cloudy climate while contributing to the broader renewable energy target.
“The EARP is like a real-time laboratory that will help the company determine the best technologies, techniques and manufacturers for solar installations,” said Keith Troyer, Consumers Energy’s EARP coordinator and an engineer II. “That’s why we call it an experimental program.”