Work progressing on solar energy site

Jordan Beck | Daily Press A solar energy farm at the Delta County Airport is pictured. According to City of Escanaba Electric Superintendent Mike Furmanski, the city’s electric department hopes to have the facility up and running in mid-August.

ESCANABA — The installation of solar panels for a solar energy farm at the Delta County Airport was recently completed, officials involved with the project said.

“All the racking and all the panels are installed,” City of Escanaba Electric Superintendent Mike Furmanski said. The facility includes a total of 3,510 solar panels.

This spring, the Escanaba City Council approved a recommendation from the Electrical Advisory Committee allowing the city’s electric department to move forward with the construction of the project this year. Their decision came after years of research and consideration. Construction on the facility began in early June.

Furmanski said he appreciated the work GRNE Solar has done to make this project a reality.

“I’ve been really happy with the progress the contractor’s made,” he said.

GRNE Solar Design Engineer Travis Kepler said the installation of solar panels at the airport went smoothly.

“It’s going up pretty quickly, in our eyes,” he said.

He also noted that, as GRNE Solar is headquartered in Nebraska (where temperatures have reached 100 degrees several times this summer), he has appreciated recent weather conditions in Escanaba.

“We love working up here — it’s been nice and cool,” Kepler said.

According to Furmanski, some work still has to be done before the solar garden is ready to operate.

“We have some materials on order that are not in yet,” he said. These include inverters and the main power transformer for the facility, both of which are expected to ship in July.

Fencing will also be installed around the solar energy garden this month.

“In early July … the fence around the facility will be installed,” Furmanski said.

Later this summer, the solar energy garden should become operational.

“(In) mid-August, we hope to have it up and running,” Furmanski said.

The 1.16 megawatt DC facility is expected to fulfill about 1.5 percent of the city’s energy needs.

“It’s not … life-changing numbers, here,” Furmanski said.

However, Furmanski noted it will save the electric department (and by extension, its customers) some money.

“It is cheaper than our wholesale rates currently are,” he said.

This facility will also allow the department to introduce a new community program.

“This fall, hopefully, we’ll be ready to roll out a community solar program,” Furmanski said. The program will allow participants to buy into the solar facility, which could make them eligible for a 30 percent investment tax credit.

As part of a lease agreement the Delta County Board of Commissioners authorized for the project (which is located on county-owned land), Delta County will have the option of purchasing several solar panels when this program begins.

“They have the first right of refusal for up to 500 panels,” Furmanski said.

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