TRAVERSE CITY — Customer demand for Cherryland Electric Cooperative’s solar panel project in Grawn is strong, prompting an increase in the number of solar panels available in the venture’s initial phase.
Cherryland officials on March 6 said they plan to construct a solar panel array at the cooperative’s headquarters on U.S. 31. The plan was to offer 48 panels during the project’s first phase, but interest from the cooperative’s members prompted Cherryland General Manager Tony Anderson to bump the initial offering to 80 panels.
“It’s been very positive,” Anderson said. “I think people want to support our renewable energy, and they are interested in making it work. We are pretty confident we can fill 80.”
Cherryland will retain ownership of the solar panels, then lease them to customers for a one-time fee of $470 per panel. Customers will receive an approximate $2 rebate per bill in return. Participating customers can expect to break even on the investment in about 20 years. That time frame could be shortened with energy optimization credits for customers.
The size of the project could offer 360 panels or more over the long-term.
Cherryland wants to partner with Traverse City’s municipal-owned utility, Traverse City Light & Power, on the project, meaning thousands more could participate. TCL&P serves about 12,000 customers.
TCL&P interim Executive Director Tim Arends said he presented information on the project to the utility’s board of directors a week ago and the response was positive. The board was in favor of assigning staff to gather more information.
Arends said the issue could come before the board again this month.