West Michigan energy developer partners with Muskegon Heights on solar projects

MUSKEGON — A West Michigan solar energy developer that has focused on equity and job training in low-income communities will partner with the city of Muskegon Heights to install solar panels on five city-owned properties.

Chart House Energy LLC, also in partnership with Maryland-based New Energy Equity, will install enough solar panels to offset nearly 47 percent of the city’s electric consumption. The city will save more than $100,000 annually through electricity savings, according to project officials.

“We are setting our sights on the New Heights — this means clean energy, clean streets, new parks and recreation, new festivals, new residential construction, new industry and commerce, and a safe and secure community,” Muskegon Heights City Manager Troy Bell said in a statement.

The 645 kilowatts of solar will be installed at City Hall, the Department of Public Works, a water filtration plant and a pumping station. Construction is expected to start next month, pending final permitting and hiring, and may be completed by the end of June.

New Energy Equity will finance the projects under an agreement that includes no upfront costs to the city.

Chart House founder and President Rob Rafson has previously said that training underemployed and unemployed workers near projects in low-income communities is a key component to Chart House projects, which are also included in Ypsilanti and Detroit.

Chart House has specifically targeted qualified Opportunity Zones created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Rafson previously told MiBiz that Chart House has $15 million of projects lined up in 2020.

The company says it will also help workers on the Muskegon Heights installations find permanent jobs in the industry.