Cloudy skies and light rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the Lapeer community or the 400 people who attended DTE Energy’s Lapeer Solar Celebration last Saturday, a fall-themed community celebration marking the completion of the Lapeer Solar Park. This was the first time DTE had held an event for the public at one of its solar parks.
DTE Energy commissioned the Lapeer Solar Park in early May 2017 and invited the community to come see the project from the unique vantage point of a tractor wagon ride. More than 400 people braved the rainy day to see the site up close, including Lapeer mayor Bill Sprague and city manager Dale Kerbyson, who had both been instrumental in bringing the project to Lapeer.
“We really wanted to do something to show our appreciation to the city of Lapeer for their partnership on this project,” said Carla Gribbs, regional manager, Corporate and Government Affairs for DTE Energy. “We also knew that people were curious about the project, so we wanted to provide them with an opportunity to see it.”
Staff from DTE’s Renewable Energy business unit were on each wagon explaining how solar energy works, what it was like to work on the project and answering other guest questions. Anthony Morabito, senior strategist, for DTE’s Renewable Energy Operations and Maintenance team, who led many of the tours, said, “I was really impressed with how many people came to see the array and the questions they asked. Some were quite technical, and people seemed very happy to see the project up close.”
In the spirit of the season, guests were treated to cider and donuts from Lapeer’s famous Past Tense cider mill. Local entertainers provided live musical entertainment, and DTE brought several different learning activities for kids. A balloon artist and face-painter added additional merriment.
Lapeer is now home to Michigan’s largest universal-scale solar park; a 200,000-panel array covering 250 acres that generates enough clean energy to power 11,000 homes. DTE Energy is Michigan’s top producer of solar energy, with 31 arrays in its renewable energy portfolio. More than 10% of the energy DTE provides customers comes from renewable energy resources. While wind energy accounts for the most of that generation, solar energy now makes up 7% of DTE’s renewable energy generation portfolio.