It's more than ironic that a coal pile lies within view of a new solar power system in the city of Wyandotte.
The city, which operates its own utility, Municipal Electric, has made a major commitment to moving away from traditional forms of energy and toward alternatives such as solar and geothermal.
One of several projects underway in Wyandotte is the recent completion of two solar-power producing arrays that will take the load off the traditional power generators.
Other projects include changes to LED lighting on city streets and buildings and a free program to provide every Wyandotte property owner with a free energy audit, which includes freebies such as energy-savings light bulbs (as a way to encourage the energy-efficient changes to properties). The program also offers 1.99 percent interest loans.
The object is to create less demand - and strain - on the utility, saving everyone money, says Melanie McCoy, Wyandotte's Municipal Services general manager.
The solar power project came in two parts. One is a larger array built on a city water department settling basin. The other, a smaller solar garden, was placed across the street from Bishop Park.
"This little solar garden is very visual," McCoy says. "The kids at the park can see it. People in the community see it."
She says there are plans to install a kiosk and plaque explaining what the solar garden and the city's alternative energy program is about.
The solar power project, which was made possible by a $3.8 million Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant, is the latest in a series of changes showing the city's commitment to alternative energy, many of those changes prompted by government grants and tax incentives.
McCoy says the changes will eventually pay for themselves, and already they've created jobs - some temporary, some permanent, from consultants and contractors to energy and financial managers. Those jobs in turn have generated spending at local businesses, she says.
It has the ability to generate 212 kilowatts of solar power, enough for about 50 homes, she says. She says it will take about 16 percent of the load off the coal fire generation the city puts out. She says the irony of the new generation of power overshadowing the old school power source of coal - Wyandotte also uses gas to generate power for its residents - is not lost on city officials.
"This is bringing good things to our city," she says. "This has been a great thing for us."
Source: Melanie McCoy, Wyandotte Municipal Services general manager
Writer: Kim North Shine