Solar project may be largest in U.P.
HARRIS – The recent installation of solar panel array at a Harris Township farm could be the largest solar energy project in the Upper Peninsula owned by a private party.
Crew members from the Jackson, Mich.-based Harvest Energy Solutions completed construction on the 120-foot long solar panel array at Jorasz Farm on Highway U.S. 2 and 41 in Harris Township on Nov. 22.
The array consists of a metal racking system that holds 80 solar panels rated at 250 watts each for a total capacity of 20 kilo-watts. The array is expected to generate 23,000 kilo-watt hours each year.
“We’re always looking to be more self-sufficient in every aspect of the farm,” said farm owner John Jorasz, of his decision to pursue solar energy. “Energy prices keep increasing so you look for alternatives. We thought about wind for awhile, but it appears as though solar is more efficient than wind so we kind of leaned toward that.”
He hopes the solar panel array will save the farm between $7,000 and $10,000 each year.
“We’re on a program with We Energies that they call Time-of-Use, because it appears as though most power plants run short of energy during peak hours from about 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, so they give us a choice where they would give us a considerable break in our power bill if we could do most of our work with electricity during the off-peak hours when they have excess power,” he said. “They’ll sell us that power relatively cheap but then all the power that we do require during the peak hours we usually pay a high price, so we’re trying to generate enough to pay for this high-price, peak energy use time.”
Harvest Energy Solutions territory manager Tom Karas, who represents Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the western Upper Peninsula for the company, said Jorasz’ solar panel system has not yet been turned on, pending state approval.
“We finished the construction, did the testing, and everything went well,” he said.
Harvest Energy Solutions professionals were expected to return to the Jorasz farm this week to meet with state electrical inspectors to set up final commissioning.
“I think high (energy) rates are just normal for folks in the U.P.,” said Karas, noting the Upper Peninsula has the highest rates of all three states he represents.
Karas said an extensive Internet search of privately owned solar projects in the U.P. indicated none as large as the Jorasz project, having consulted sources such as a National Renewable Energy Lab database, the Clean Energy Authority, and other installers.
“When he (Karas) told me that, I started thinking about the solar installations that I know about and this is by far a lot larger than any other installation that I’ve ever seen, but I don’t travel the whole U.P., so I don’t really know what’s going on in some other parts,” said Jorasz.
Either way, his ultimate hope is to triple their use of solar power in the future if everything works out as anticipated.
“Whatever we produce is more than we had before and as long as it pays for itself in a short time, which they’re thinking like four or maybe five years, that’s a pretty good return on your investment,” he said.