Michigan Tech students explore community solar project; collaborate with UPPCO

UPPCO/MTU Collaboration on Community Solar Feasibility Analysis – Pictured above are Michigan Technological University students and UPPCO representatives involved in the project. From left to right are: UPPCO Regional Account Executive Dan Crane, Michigan Tech students Lacey Englebert, Sean Smith, Simon Eddy, UPPCO VP of Business Development and Communications Brett French, and Michigan Tech students Travis Durgan and Madi Cleary. Michigan Tech faculty advisor Jay Meldrum and Michigan Tech student John Frischmon were unavailable for the picture. Photo courtesy: UPPCO/MTU

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) is collaborating with a group of Michigan Technological University students through the Alternative Energy Enterprise Group to explore the feasibility of developing a community solar energy facility in the area.

“UPPCO is pleased to collaborate with faculty and students of Michigan Tech to explore how we might add new solar energy resources to our system,” said Brett French, Vice-President of Business Development and Communications. “Our company has been generating clean, renewable energy for more than 100 years at our hydroelectric generation facilities. Solar energy is an emerging technology that we would like to develop for our customers. This project, if feasible, would provide our customers with an opportunity to participate in a solar project and benefit directly from the energy that is produced.”

A feasibility study is being completed under the supervision of Michigan Tech faculty advisor Jay Meldrum, in consultation with UPPCO officials. Students are evaluating various scenarios to model the amount of energy that could be produced by the project, determine the type of equipment that could be installed and complete a financial analysis of the fixed and variable costs attributable to the project. The final study report is expected in 2018. UPPCO will consider the conclusions of the study as it determines if a community solar energy project is indicated for the future.

“This is a great opportunity for students and faculty to work with UPPCO on a project that has real-world applications,” said Meldrum, who is also Executive Director of Sustainability for Michigan Tech and the Keweenaw Research Center. “Our students are deeply engaged in the feasibility analysis and are committed to making this project a reality, if possible.”

“We are thrilled that UPPCO is expanding their renewable portfolio and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it,” said Madi Cleary, a student involved in the project. “As students with a passion for renewable energy, the idea of working on a local solar project is exciting - especially for Michigan Tech and the Alternative Energy Enterprise. We are eager to see how the project unfolds.”