GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Consumers Energy is teaming up with Rockford Construction Co. to create “Circuit West,” a project that will create an array of rooftop solar panels and a battery storage facility in a 10-block area west of downtown Grand Rapids.
The energy district, which will place solar panels on the roofs of new buildings that will include a new urban Meijer grocery, housing and offices, will be used as a testbed for renewable energy technologies and offer a green energy supply to the neighborhood.
The solar panels will generate between .5 to 1 megawatt of electrical energy, said Garrick Rochow, Senior Vice President of Operations for Consumers Energy at a press conference announcing Circuit West on Monday, July 17.
One megawatt of solar energy can power an average of 164 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Consumers Energy currently generates about 6 megawatts of solar power in Michigan.
“With Circuit West, Consumers Energy is proud to be among the first utilities in the Midwest to leverage energy storage to improve the performance of renewables – ensuring customers have access to clean energy when they need it,” Rochow said.
The Circuit West project also will provide increased bandwidth for communications and Internet access and electrical vehicle charging systems.
“Our vision is to provide a safe, innovative, sustainable neighborhood on the West Side that is a magnet for people and commerce,” said Mike VanGessel, CEO of Rockford Construction, which is redeveloping the block northwest of Bridge Street and Seward Avenue.
“This part of Grand Rapids is growing quickly, and we are excited to have a hand in bringing the latest technology and renewable energy to this side of the city,” VanGessel said.
Neither Rochow nor VanGessel would disclose how much they are investing in the project, which will include buries power lines for reliability and aesthetics in the neighborhood.
The battery facility, tentatively planned to a site next to a cell tower across the street from Rockford Construction’s headquarters, will be a first time a solar grid and storage facility will be work together, Rochow said. The solar panels and battery will be part of the utility’s larger power grid, he noted.
The Circuit West project also promises lower energy bills due to more accurate meter reads in the district, which extends between Bridge Street and First Street and Seward and Stocking Avenues, according to its sponsors
“An energy district like Circuit West is a critical component to a sustainable Grand Rapids and creates a bridge for further development opportunities while meeting the needs of a rapidly growing community,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss in a statement delivered by 2nd Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly.
“We are thankful for the leadership of Consumers Energy and Rockford Construction and their innovative and collaborate approach that will make this district one of the most energy efficient, reliable and desirable regions in the United States.”