Great Lakes Energy solar energy project on display in Boyne City now

gle solar webBeth Gohs

Staff Writer
Great Lakes Energy is educating customers and potential buyers of solar panel systems about renewable energy through its new solar panel project.

Headquartered in Boyne City, Great Lakes Energy started the project with installing a T.V in its lobby which lists data about the solar panel energy production.
“The goal of the project is to provide education to our co-op members on solar rays and renewable energy,” said Shari Culver, Vice President, Communications, Marketing & Energy Optimization with Great Lakes Energy. “Our target is to educate our members who may have questions about doing something like this at their home. It’s also for the public and the community to learn about renewable energy as well.”
The office also hosts an interactive outdoor educational display and two solar panels that create 5kW of energy.
The solar panel system Great Lakes Energy is introducing is a 10kW system—the panels would have to be repositioned in the summer and winter to angle toward the sun to maximize the possible energy production.
“The sun beats down on the panels, the panels collect energy and it’s converted to DC electricity. Then it  goes through another device called an inverter to convert that to AC so it can be used in a home or a business,” Culver explained.
The solar panel project includes a net metering plan which would ensure that, in a case that excess energy is produced for the power needs of a house, there would be a system to conserve the energy.
“For our net metering system the system you put in needs to match with the power needs of your home,” Culver said. “The excess energy someone generates on their own is credited back to their account. It’s not sold back to the utilities.”
She added, “If they don’t generate enough then they would use electricity from Great Lakes Energy for their additional power needs in their home.”
According to Culver there are people in Charlevoix County who support the solar panels, welcoming this push toward a new direction.
Great Lakes Energy doesn’t offer installation of the solar panels, nor do they sell the product.
“We worked with a local installer out of Traverse City so they are readily available if we had an issue with it,” she said.
Culver emphasized the project is purely for educational purposes.
“This is more an educational project and we leave it to the experts in the area,” Culver said. “So members can research different companies and get quotes from different companies in the area.”
The solar panels are not merely a display but also help power the Boyne City Great Lakes Energy office.
“We do invite the community and our members to stop by and look at the display,” she said. “It’s interesting to see close up and we’re excited to see the outcome of it.”