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And if the sun shines as much Monday as it did a week ago, the 636 solar panels atop the Padnos Iron & Metal Co. recycling facility at 500 44th St. SW will be generating green.
At 15,000 square feet, the state’s largest solar energy project funneled 4,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity into the power grid during a six-day stretch of clear skies this month.
It has generated about 18,000 kilowatt-hours since its installation in December.
“One of the first rules of sustainability is to make a profit,” said Padnos, president of the Holland-based company. “We had a few days in a row where we were getting close to and over 800 (kilowatt-hours). Those sunny days are just perfect.”
Padnos on Monday will host a pair of state senators and several energy experts for a dedication of the rooftop solar project. A panel discussion about the future of renewable energy in Michigan also is planned.
The $1.27 million solar installation at Padnos is the first big solar job by Cascade Renewable Energy Solutions, a division of Cascade Engineering.
The electricity is sold to Consumers Energy Co., which launched a buyback for energy generated by solar power in response to a state requirement that public utilities by 2015 get 10 percent of their supply from alternative energy sources.
State property tax breaks and tax credits for alternative energy projects also have a role in giving the panels an estimated payback of eight years.
Fred Keller, Cascade chairman and chief executive, said solar energy “may not be the most economic thing to do in today’s world,” but those economics soon will change as the cost of generating electricity from fossil fuels increases and the price of solar technology declines.
Public policy favoring alternative energy helps manufacturers ramp up for the time when the market favors renewable sources, Keller said.
“Within five years we will see those numbers cross and, in the meantime, it’s important for government policy to foresee these coming down the pike,” he said.
“This is a classic example of government giving a clear signal to the market.”
The forecast for the market? Keller thinks it’s bright.
“Virtually all of the fuel that we buy comes from outside the state,” he said. “We have the capability to literally manufacture wind and solar power in this state and it changes dramatically the balance of payments,” he said.