DTE Energy and Thumb Electric Cooperative (TEC) will soon break ground on a 665-kilowatt solar energy system on the co-op’s property in Caro.

The $2.5 million system, with over 2,600 photovoltaic modules, will cover over three acres and connect directly with DTE’s grid. It will have the capacity to power about 100 homes when it’s completed in October.

The array is part of DTE’s SolarCurrents pilot program that calls for installing utility-scale photovoltaic systems on customer rooftops or property. This will be the 21st solar installation – and second largest – built in the company’s southeast service area, the fifth in the Thumb area, and the first in Tuscola County. All are owned, operated and maintained by DTE Energy.

“We are excited about this project for several reasons,” says Dallas Braun, TEC general manager. “First and foremost, it allows both utilities to continue a direct business relationship that has grown over the past several decades. The system will be owned and operated by DTE, but constructed on our property, thus allowing TEC to play an important role in this renewable energy project.” The co-op will also have access to a portion of the array so it can provide educational tours for school and community groups.

“Although we’ve found that the cost of solar energy is currently far more expensive than wind energy, this pilot program has allowed us to learn about the technology and help grow the solar industry in Michigan,” says Irene Dimitry, DTE vice president, marketing & renewables. DTE expects to invest over $2 billion by 2015 to build or buy nearly 1,000 MW of Michigan-based renewable energy.