Solar Investment Pays Off for Michigan Blueberry Farm

BlueberriesAt Bruce Reenders’ blueberry farm in West Olive, Mich., one of the more interesting parts of the site is up in the air, not in the ground.

Reenders Blueberry Farms has dozens of solar panels installed on the roof of his pole barn, through the Consumers Energy Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP) for non-residential customers.

His farm was selected in a lottery as part of nine solar projects planned by six businesses through the program.

The program is rewarding customers for innovating around their businesses while also helping the environment.

A long-term contract with Consumers Energy pays Reenders back 22.9 cents per kilowatt-hour for use of the panels, a higher rate than what customers are charged now.

He paid $99,360 for the project, but between tax credits and a federal grant, the cost shrunk to $47,000.

Annually, Consumers Energy is slated to pay him about $7,000, meaning the project will pay for itself in about seven years.

“I guess you could say I have some stock in solar energy,” he said.

Consumers Energy is the largest renewable energy supplier in Michigan, and through the EARP program, we plan to purchase renewable energy back from 191 customer-owned solar generators.

The EARP program will ultimately total about 6 megawatts of capacity, enough electricity to power about 240,000 incandescent light bulbs at 100-watts each.

Consumers Energy plans to continue adding capacity on a quarterly basis and, if qualified applications exceed available capacity, keep holding public drawings to select customers.