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Six months ago I posted the following diary:

THIS is how you get business types to invest in alt energy!

July 6, 2011

DTE Energy to build solar installation on Mercy High School roof
Farmington Hills high school participates in SolarCurrents program

DETROIT – DTE Energy and Mercy High School in Farmington Hills today announced the signing of a 20-year agreement that will provide the utility’s customers with renewable energy generated from the sun.

The 400-kilowatt, $2.5 million photovoltaic system will be installed using 125,000 square feet of roof on the high school at 11 Mile and Middlebelt roads. The solar array should be operational in September after design and construction is completed.

As I said at the time:

As many of you know, I'm a freelance web developer. As you can probably guess, I have a general policy of not posting anything about my clients on any personal blogs, especially this one, for obvious professionalism reasons.

However, as long as doing so doesn't violate any issues of confidentiality/etc, and as long as the client is OK with it, I do make a rare exception once in a blue moon. Today is such a day.

Today, I'm thrilled to announce an important update on this project:

DTE Energy Solar Panel Array Installed on Mercy High Roof and is fully functioning!

DTE Energy and Mercy High School signed a 20-year agreement in July 2011 that will provide utility customers with renewable energy generated from the sun. The solar array installation is part of DTE Energy’s pilot SolarCurrents program which is one of the largest distributed solar programs in the country.

Throughout the fall a roofing company and DTE's solar panel installation crew worked tirelessly to get the system up and running before the beginning of 2012. The solar array is operational and began producing energy on December 28, 2011.

Mercy High School is the first private high school to participate in SolarCurrents and houses the largest roof mounted facility in the state of Michigan. The 400-kilowatt, $2.5 million photovoltaic system installed uses 125,000 square feet of roof on the high school. The solar array will be owned, installed, operated and maintained by DTE Energy. No Mercy High School funds were used to install or maintain this system. Mercy will receive an annual payment equal to one scholarship per year for 20 years. The school also received a one-time, up-front construction payment which covered any inconveniences during installation and indirect energy savings over time.

To reiterate what I said last July, that this sort of program makes an amazing amount of sense in so many ways; it's win-win all around:

--The energy company gets a huge, ready-made, perfectly flat surface to install a huge solar panel array, without having to lease the land, without having to run electric cables/water pipes/other infrastructure out across miles of fields or wilderness, and without having to drive miles out into the boonies for service/maintenance, which saves them tons of installation/maintenance costs

--There's zero negative impact on the local ecology/wildlife, since no additional fields/grasslands are being covered over or disrupted by solar panels

--The school gets a huge positive PR bragging point about leading the way in clean energy production as well as a nice addition to their educational program (note the kiosk station where students can learn about efficient energy production using their own school as a live case study).

If I'm understanding how the arrangement works correctly, it basically amounts to the school renting out their roof space (which isn't being used for anything else anyway, after all) for around $11,000/year (or perhaps it's $44,000/year; I'm not sure if "one scholarship" means 1 years' tuition or all 4).

In addition they receive an upfront payment to cover any construction damage and free roof maintenance (I gotta figure that maintenance of the solar array pretty much has to include roof maintenance as well) without ever having to spend a dime on the upfront cost of installation or infrastructure themselves, which is always the biggest hurdle for people/businesses to deal with when considering solar panels.

I just can't begin to describe how geeked I am about this project, and how proud I am of my client.

As for the program, just think about how many thousands of acres of unused flat rooftops there are scattered around the country at other high schools, strip malls, factories, etc. that would be ideally suited for this sort of solar array?

Originally posted to Brainwrap on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 03:06 PM PST.

Also republished by Kosowatt, DK GreenRoots, Good News, and SciTech.

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