From now on, Central Michigan University students don’t need to head into the nearest building when their phone or laptop needs a charge; they can just head over to the new solar workstation installed in front of the Engineering and Technology building. 

DTE Energy’s Renewable Energy team donated the solar workstation to CMU to show their appreciation for students’ work on a solar generation forecasting model that predicts the expected solar generation across all our 31 solar parks in Michigan. This model not only helps DTE anticipate and plan where daily generation will come from, but also helps the operations and maintenance team troubleshoot problems if there is a significant difference between the expected solar generation and actual solar generation. Six engineering and technology students from CMU worked on the project along with three renewable energy operations and maintenance personnel. 

“It’s great to be able to work with high-caliber students to develop this software and then experience the real-world benefits of it in our daily operations. We’re thankful for the hard work of everyone involved,” said Ed Henderson, manager of DTE’s Renewable Energy operations and maintenance team. 

The solar workstation is a symbol of DTE’s relationship with the university, which has served as a pipeline of talent for our company in recent years. The picnic-style workstation features solar panels in the umbrella, and was manufactured and installed by EnerFusion Inc., a renewable energy proudcts supplier based in Eaton Rapids, Michigan.  

“This is the first solar workstation we’ve donated, and our hope is that the College of Science and Engineering students can use it to develop other software and further their research,” said Anthony Morabito, supervisor of solar energy operations at DTE. 

This year, engineering and technology seniors will use data collected from the table to improve solar models, and other engineering students will use it for their own research, said Kumar Yelemarthi, chair of CMU’s College of Science and Engineering. 

Mid-Michigan is already home to several successful wind parks, and three of the largest wind parks in the state are currently under construction nor far from CMU’s campus. All these wind energy projects offer additional opportunities for student collaboration and research.  

“I’d like to see another project between our two organizations, but I hope we can focus on wind next time. We’ll soon have a renewable energy operations and maintenance building in Mt. Pleasant, so the opportunity is there to work together in a way that benefits all parties,” said Henderson.