Study to explore ways to access solar in Western UP

(Image Source: MGN)
(Image Source: MGN)(KALB)
Published: Feb. 22, 2018 at 2:48 PM EST
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As solar energy costs continue to fall, public utilities across the Upper Peninsula are asking, “Can solar work in our communities?” Thanks to a $63,000 grant from the American Public Power Association, two municipal utilities in the Western U.P. will find out.

WPPI Energy will use the grant to lead a new study in Baraga, and build upon previous work in L’Anse, to identify strategies to help public power utilities provide their customers access to solar energy. The research team, which includes Michigan Technological University and the Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region (WUPPDR), will place a special emphasis on identifying strategies that will enhance low-to-moderate income (LMI) households’ access to solar energy. The project team also plans to investigate novel ways to integrate energy efficiency programs with solar to reduce the total amount of energy households consume.

Residents and businesses in L’Anse and Baraga receive their electricity from local municipal utilities operated by Village staff and supported by a partnership with WPPI Energy. WPPI Energy is a not-for-profit, regional power company and serves 51 locally-owned electric utilities, including the Villages of L’Anse and Baraga, in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The research team plans to identify solutions to challenges local public utilities face in developing solar programs. “We are excited to continue our relationship with both Michigan Tech and WUPPDR as partners on this research project” said Brett Niemi of WPPI Energy. “Projects like this can create avenues to help municipal utilities like Baraga and L’Anse reinvest into the future needs of their customers”.

The grant is provided through APPA’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Development (DEED) program which funds research, pilot projects and education to improve the operations and services of public power utilities. APPA is the national organization serving the interests of the nation’s more than 2,000 community- and state-owned electric utilities. The association established the DEED program in 1980 to sponsor and conduct activities related to energy innovation that improve efficiency or lower costs in providing energy services to consumers of publicly owned electric utilities. DEED funds are used to support innovative utility programs. The DEED award will build upon ongoing work in L’Anse supported by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.

“We’re excited about this new opportunity to help L’Anse and Baraga evaluate the potential of solar technology for their businesses and residents,” said Brad Barnett, a regional planner for WUPPDR. “The cost of solar is getting cheaper, but a lot of households and businesses still have a hard time justifying the upfront costs. It’s great to see L’Anse and Baraga take the lead in exploring how to make solar work in our region.” A community forum in Baraga is planned for early this spring to get feedback from local residents and businesses.

For more information about the project, contact Brad Barnett, Regional Planner, at 906-482-7205, ext. 316 or