A new partnership between the city of Muskegon Heights and two alternative energy companies is expected to covert almost half of the city’s electric consumption to solar, according to an announcement released on Thursday.
Chart House Energy, a solar energy company based in Muskegon, and New Energy Equity, a solar project financing and development company in Annapolis, Maryland, will work with Muskegon Heights to develop at least four solar projects within city limits.
The 645-kilowatt system will offset almost 47 percent of the city’s electric consumption, saving about $100,000 per year, according to the release.
The project will be financed through an agreement with New Energy Equity, and requires no upfront expenditure from Muskegon Heights, according to city manager Troy Bell.
Rather, the Maryland-based company will cover installation and infrastructure costs, while the financing costs will be taken out of the city’s savings over the life of the project, Bell said.
The solar panels will be installed on the roofs of Muskegon Heights City Hall, 2724 Peck St., and the Department of Public Works, 3124 Wood St., and on the ground at the water filtration plant, 2323 Seminole Road, and pumping station on West Sherman Boulevard.
Panels may eventually be installed at the Muskegon Heights library, 2808 Sanford St., said Bell.
“This is an investment in our community and the future of our community, and the quality of health for our community,” he said.
The project is expected to create 20 construction jobs with wages of about $20 per hour, and take about two months to finish. As each installation is completed, Bell said, that building will go live, building up to a fully operational solar system.
The jobs will target low-income Heights residents, and are expected to be a path to career development, said Bell.
“They’re not just looking to hire people for the project, they’re looking to get them technical certification and work with them to make sure they have jobs when the project is done,” Bell said of Chart House Energy.
The idea for bringing solar energy to Muskegon Heights predates Bell’s position as city manager – he came aboard in September – but got off the ground in the last four to six months, Bell said.
Bell said that the project is part of a broader effort referred to as “New Heights” to improve the city, which has struggled with financial divestment in its public infrastructure and schools.
“This represents a significant turnaround for a city that has struggled,” he said. “Our ability to pull together a project like this, with the limited resources that we have, was a large part of just prioritizing the importance of this project. But it is part of our effort to set our sights on the ‘New Heights,’ to transform the way that we do things, to embrace technology, to be more efficient and more effective in providing city services.”