DNR putting solar panels in seven West Michigan Parks

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Posted at 1:00 AM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-01 01:00:17-04

WEST MICHIGAN — The state of Michigan is getting a bit greener, thanks to a new solar agreement through the DNR.

In late September, the DNR announced it had signed a power purchase agreement with Utopian Power based out of Metro Detroit to supply nearly a megawatt of clean energy to different sections of seven state parks and offices in Southwest Michigan.

Those parks are:

  • DNR Customer Service Center, Plainwell
  • Fort Custer Recreation Area, Kalamazoo County
  • Holland State Park, Ottawa County
  • Ionia State Recreation Area, Ionia County
  • Muskegon State Park, Muskegon County
  • P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, Muskegon County
  • Yankee Springs, Barry County

"What that allows really the state to do is both leverage the fact that they're going to now have cleaner power. They know where the power is coming from, it's on site generation, but also to not put any upfront costs," said Forrest Cohn, founder and president of Utopian Power.

According to the DNR, they'll save about $1.4 million through a discounted utility rate while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to you know, clean air, clean water protection of our natural resources. And solar energy provides a source of that, that clean energy, and we think it aligns really well with our agency's mission," said Scott Whitcomb, Senior Advisor for Wildlife and Public Lands with the DNR.

To put it in perspective; the annual production by the solar power systems being put into place in Southwest Michigan would be enough to power about 90 residential homes.

Those with Utopian Power say, not only is this a great effort to make the state more eco-friendly, it's something that's close to their hearts as well.

"The DNR folks said that, you know, one of the points of this is to bring solar generation into the day-to-day operation, right? So what we're gonna do is put solar in the parks in a responsible manner," said Cohn. "It's a massive deal for us. For many reasons, you know, one; we're able to work right within Michigan, where all the founders are from."

A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at Holland State Park in the spring to showcase the new solar arrays.

Utopian Power is no stranger to this type of project. They also installed a solar system at the Oden State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center.