City explores solar power

HOUGHTON – As the Regional Prosperity Initiative studies the feasibility of residential and commercial solar energy in the Western U.P., the city of Houghton is also exploring available options.

“The city is getting involved,” said Susie Landers, business development director for Houghton. “I will be representing the city on this, not only to see what we can do for the businesses in downtown, but also because we’re very passionate about connecting other communities and helping to pave the way in any way that we can. Again, it always does come down to always working together, no matter how many miles apart.

“We’re still in the U.P., and this is still one area. We’re not bound by any city lines.”

Landers has worked with the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region on other projects.

“People don’t understand the important place that WUPPDR has in our community,” she said, “and I’m gonna tell you that right now. People don’t know. And they need to know the services and everything, because there’s things that happen that WUPPDR takes care of that we just think – poof! – it just magically happens, and we don’t even realize that they do them. So, this is something that is here for everybody, and we need to know.”

While WUPPDR will not fund solar panel installation, it is laying the groundwork to see what solar energy has to offer, said Jerry Wuorenmaa, executive director of WUPPDR, and the project will have far-reaching implications.

“Marquette is doing a community solar project, but they have their own municipal utility, so they have the freedom to do that,” said Abhi Kantamneni of Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center. Part of what we are also working to do is trying to understand the policy context, trying to understand within the confines of what we can do…what is the most that we can do.”