The partnership between the City of Muskegon, Sunwealth and local company Chart House Energy is expected to save the city around $1,000,000 in the next 25 years.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The City of Muskegon is moving forward on clean energy this fall as the roof of Trinity Health Arena is set to host to over 1,000 new solar panels from local company Chart House Energy.

“Muskegon wants to be a leader and in the state, they really do,” Chart House’s Community Development Director Jon Ledsworth said. “So, I am very proud of our city leaders.”

The panels are set to provide about 27% of the energy used by the arena, potentially saving the city tens of thousands each year.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a project that has been attempted multiple times in the last few years.

“COVID got in the way there for all of us, but [the city is] super excited to finally see this develop again,” Ledsworth said.

In the past, Muskegon has had to subsidize the arena with funding to help keep up with costs. With the new solar project, however, the city’s mayor said that money can now go back into the city.

“It’s just continuing to the greatest extent possible and this is part of our desire for greater fiscal sustainability as we work towards getting the arena self sustainable,” Muskegon Mayor Ken Johnson said.

As part of this plan, Muskegon will see no upfront cost for the panels.

Instead, the city will enter what is called a power purchase agreement with Sunwealth, operating out of Massachusetts. Sunwealth will invest in the panels and Muskegon will buy the generated power from them at a discounted energy rate. It’s a deal that is estimated to save the city around one million dollars over the next 25 years.

“We’re not putting any money into the project, but we’re realizing $80,000 to $90,000 in cost savings annually going forward,” Johnson said.

As he hopes to push for other locations in the city to be outfitted with clean energy, Johnson said it’s part of a larger goal.

“The City Commission adopted earlier this year a climate emergency declaration and tasking ourselves with developing a climate mobilization action plan that is working towards realizing net carbon, net zero by 2040,” Johnson said. “And I’d like to see us achieve that sooner.”

Johnson said the he would like to see the city’s parks and recreation be a priority for the extra dollars saved by the solar panel project atop the arena.

“This is an exciting initiative,” Johnson said “It’s a multi-year effort that has gone through a number of hurdles and hiccups to overcome, but very much aligns with the city’s sustainability goals — both from a fiscal perspective, as well as an environmental perspective.”

Leaders here are hoping to have the project up and running sometime in the next two months.