Michigan State University joins solar revolution with 11 MW project


Michigan State University (MSU) has joined the solar revolution with the commissioning of its 11 MW carport solar project just before Christmas last year.

The project (literally) covers 45 acres comprised of 4,500 parking spaces on the university’s main East Lansing campus.

More interestingly, the $19.8 million loan that fueled the construction of the project by Indiana-based Inovateus Solar has been paid off thanks to a $10.2 million 10-year loan and a $9.7 million tax-equity investment by 1st Source Bank.

Alterra Power Corporation, a Canadian power conglomerate, will manage the project under a 25-year agreement with the university to purchase 100% of the electricity produced by the project. It also holds a 100% sponsor equity interest in the project under an agreement with Inovateus.

Inovateus will supply long-term operations and maintenance of the project for Michigan State.

As a land-grant college, Michigan State’s commitment to solar is particularly fitting. Land-grant colleges are universities designated by states to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 to focus on practical subjects like agriculture, science, military science and engineering. Solar installations, of course, satisfy the environmental conservation (falling under the agriculture mandate), science and engineering portions of those mandates.

“We’re pleased to complete this project within 2017 – with tremendous thanks to our partners at Michigan State University, 1st Source and Inovateus,” said Jon Schintler, vice president of Project Finance & Development at Alterra. “We’re looking forward to further growth of our U.S. solar business and many successful years delivering clean power to MSU.”

The Michigan State project is part of a larger trend for colleges and universities across the country as they try to wean themselves from their often outdated campus-located fossil-fuel plants. Earlier last year, for example, Inovateus completed a similar project for Notre Dame.

The trend is so strong that companies are starting to specialize in these types of commercial projects. Maryland-based Standard Solar (also in conjunction with a Canadian power giant – Gaz Metro, in their case), for example, has helped schools ranging from Anne Arundel Community College to the University of Delaware go solar and has developed a division specifically to handle such projects.


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