Clean Energy Initiative explores local uses

A member of the Superior Watershed Partnerships’ Energy Conservation Corps works to install solar panels atop a residence in Ishpeming as part of the Clean Energy Initiative. The Clean Energy Initiative, a collaborative project amongst the Community Foundation of Marquette County, the SWP, and Michigan Energy Options, aims to educate the community on clean energy by demonstrating the use of various forms of solar power at two income-qualified homes and a commercial building. On Wednesday, the community foundation will host an event for local leaders and officials that outlines the project and encourages discussions around local clean energy options. (Photo courtesy of Superior Watershed Partnership)

MARQUETTE — Is solar power a viable option in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? Can clean energy sources help local residents and businesses save money while reducing their use of fossil fuels? What are the most efficient sites and methods for solar array use?

The Clean Energy Initiative, a collaboration among the Community Foundation of Marquette County, the Superior Watershed Partnership and Michigan Energy Options, is using grant funding awarded to the community foundation by the C.S. Mott Foundation to explore these questions while increasing clean energy implementation and awareness in Marquette County.

“What we do at the community foundation is we consider the long-term sustainability of any project –and if it’s for good, if it’s forever, we’re interested — so when this funding became available, we of course applied for it,” said Gail Anthony, CEO of the Community Foundation of Marquette County. “If we can at least demonstrate that solar is a viable option for people, we just feel like it’s the right thing to do.”

The $60,000 grant awarded to the community foundation is being used to do a pilot project at local residences and a business that aims to show the use of solar in various forms.

To learn about what’s happened with the project so far, local leaders will gather at a community foundation-hosted event at Northern Michigan University Wednesday evening.

They will discuss the Clean Energy Initiative and view a new video that outlines the impacts of the initiative to “prompt educated roundtable discussions by community leaders,” said Emily Leach of the Superior Watershed Partnership.

“Bennett Media is finalizing a video to help tell the story of clean energy options in Marquette County, using the demonstration sites as the backdrop for weatherization measures and renewable energy potential in our community,” Leach said.

Two income-qualified households, as well as the building housing Range Bank and the Community Foundation of Marquette County along McClellan Avenue in Marquette, were selected as pilot sites for the project and will be discussed at the event.

With the variety of solar energy sources and sites used in the pilot project, organizers hope to learn more about what the best options for solar are in the community and share this knowledge with the public.

“What we really hope to show is that solar works, (that) it makes sense from a financial aspect, from an energy aspect,” said Michael Larson, Upper Peninsula operations manager at Michigan Energy Options.

The solar array atop Range Bank was recently installed on the roof of the bank’s drive-thru by Peninsula Solar in cooperation with SWP’s Energy Conservation Corps, officials said, noting that extensive weatherization and energy efficiency measures were completed by Michigan Energy Options prior to the installation.

Organizers hope the highly-visible installation along McClellan Avenue will catch the community’s attention and help the public learn more about solar power.

“Range Bank is excited to be included in the Community Foundation of Marquette County’s Clean Energy Initiative,” Range Bank President and CEO Roxanne Daust said. “Helping the community gain awareness is an important part of the initiative and we look forward to using our McClellan Avenue office as a demonstration site.”

One of the income-qualified residential sites is a home in Ishpeming that had a solar array installed by SWP’s Energy Conservation Corps. The other site is a south Marquette residence that will receive solar energy credits from the Marquette Board of Light and Power’s solar garden through the SWP.

“These two residential demonstration sites will show potential for clean energy options in our area,” Leach said.

Furthermore, the residential use of solar, particularly in households with low-to-moderate incomes, can help “households take control of their energy costs,” increase their buying power and quality of life, Larson said.

Leach said the partnership between the agencies has been beneficial in a number of ways, as the project complements SWP’s own energy and environmental programs, and SWP helped identify qualified households for the Clean Energy Initiative through their Michigan Energy Assistance Program.

Furthermore, “the natural leadership, assest management skills and community-based mission of community foundations to protect the health and well-being of its citizens,” made the community foundation well prepared to be involved in the project, Anthony said.

Overall, organizers hope the initiative can educate individuals, households, organizations, businesses and the community as a whole about local clean energy.

“There’s an opportunity to educate the public through data that is gathered from these clean energy options, that is a clear benefit, “ Larson said.

For more information on the Community Foundation of Marquette County visit http://cfofmc.org/

To learn more about Michigan Energy Options, visit michiganenergyoptions.org/

For more information on the SWP, visit https://superiorwatersheds.org