Esky solar farm producing electricity

ESCANABA — A solar energy farm installed at the Delta County Airport this summer has become operational.

“It’s completed — it’s actually up and running right now, generating electricity,” Escanaba Electric Superintendent Mike Furmanski said. The 1.16 megawatt DC facility, which includes a total of 3,510 solar panels, was activated on Friday, Aug. 24.

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.

Over the past week, Furmanski said, the solar energy farm has saved the electric department (and by extension, its customers) some money by generating energy they would otherwise have to buy. However, the cloudy weather seen in the area as of late has prevented the facility from reaching its maximum potential.

“We haven’t seen full output from it yet,” he said. The facility is expected to fulfill about 2 percent of the city’s energy needs.

Furmanski also said there have been some minor issues with the solar energy farm.

“Like anything, there were a few bugs,” he said. These included problems with some of the facility’s inverters.

When the solar energy farm became operational on Aug. 24, three of its 15 inverters were not working properly. As of Wednesday, two of these inverters had been fixed and efforts to fix or replace the third inverter were ongoing.

In October, Furmanski said the electric department is hoping to introduce a new community program. This 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. Furmanski noted he has also received some calls from area citizens interested in joining this program.

“There’s been some interest,” he said.