South Christian, established in 1954, is a private high school located in Byron Center. The school is dedicated to educating young individuals from a Reformed Christian perspective and continuously seeks new learning experiences for their students. South Christian was interested in building a solar array, which would provide an opportunity to share renewable energy production technology with the students via an ‘energy lab.’ Windemuller installed a 660kW solar system consisting of more than 1,600 solar modules that would ultimately power the school, and help to offset energy costs.
Initially, because this was the first solar array in Gaines Township, the project faced special use permitting challenges. Our project team was tasked with convincing a permitting board of the benefits of a solar array located in a rural township. The group also experienced pushback from individuals in the community who expressed concerns to the township regarding location, size and other factors.
Once permitting issues were successfully resolved, our field crew was met with spring weather conditions. Unfortunately, the area where the new solar array was to be installed is a moist, boggy area of the property. When this area was wet, the installation equipment would sink quickly, which added unexpected challenges. Every combination of site conditions and solar array is unique and requires a small learning curve as our team assembled the system.
Thankfully, as Windemuller worked through the permitting process, we received steady support from school administrators, school constituency, and Gaines Township officials. That help and cooperative attitude ensured the project could proceed smoothly. To help mollify concerns, our team presented to the township the benefits the solar project would afford the school and community and offered some natural screening, which resulted in approval to move forward.
Although we had some weather setbacks, a majority of the spring season was mild and dry, which helped get the job built efficiently. Wet conditions did cause some installation issues, but our landscaping partners did a great job with plant placement and restoration. Not only will the solar array be visually appealing, but the screening and landscaping pulls the overall site together. South Christian is excited to benefit from their new energy source, and they look forward to incorporating the ‘energy lab’ into their curriculum this fall. Not only will the solar array help the school serve as a leader in stewardship and education, but the new system also provides a clean, effective energy source without noise, pollution, or traffic.