SEPTEMBER 16, 2020

Michigan: DNR Awards Solar Power Contract for Oden State Fish Hatchery

The Oden State Fish Hatchery raises 650,000 brown and rainbow trout each year, in addition to educating and accommodating more than 32,000 visitors.

It’s a big job that takes 1.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity, the highest energy consumption rate among the six fish hatcheries managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

To reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, along with furthering the state’s progress toward converting facilities to renewable energy use, the DNR developed a public-private partnership at the Oden hatchery.

The result of that partnership will be a solar-powered installation at the Oden Hatchery Visitor Center, located along US Highway-31 between Conway and Oden.

“Not only will this project provide clean energy for the hatchery’s visitor center, but with Oden being the second-most visited fish hatchery in Michigan, this will also create an excellent educational opportunity,” said Scott Whitcomb, senior advisor for wildlife and public lands with the DNR’s Executive Division. “People will be able to see first-hand how renewable energy can be put to work effectively.”

In June, the DNR put out a request for proposals, with major funding for the pilot project provided the Frey Family Fund, which contributed $15,000 via a donor-advised fund of the Charlevoix County Community Foundation and the Friends of Oden Fish Hatchery, which donated $10,000.

Bids were received from Charthouse Energy of Muskegon, Green Panel LLC of Brighton and Utopian Power LLC of South Lyon. A joint DNR evaluation committee reviewed the proposals and selected Utopian Power, which proposed a ground array solar solution for $26,500.

“Award recommendation is made to the responsive and responsible bidder who offers the best value to the state of Michigan,” wrote Laura Gyorkos, a committee member and solicitation manager for the DNR’s Finance and Operations Division, in the document announcing the panel’s decision.

“Utopian is an interesting story,” Whitcomb said. “Two guys from Michigan move away from the state, then come back to try this renewable energy start-up in their home state. While away, one of them works in a fish hatchery and now they’re installing solar in a fish hatchery.”

Forrest Cohn, president of Utopian Power, said the company is “extremely excited for the opportunity to showcase local renewable, sustainable and clean energy to the visitors of Oden State Fish Hatchery.”

“We hope that this display will pique the interests of those who see it and encourage them to pursue, and ask for, more renewable energy generation in their communities.”

Michigan Energy Options, an East Lansing non-profit organization under contract with the DNR, worked on evaluating the proposal. The firm has assisted the DNR with the technical aspects of understanding solar energy.

Work on the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

A recent energy audit showed that the DNR’s six fish hatcheries account for 15 percent of the DNR’s total energy consumption.

The Oden State Fish Hatchery is home to the only stream-side fish viewing chamber east of the Rocky Mountains and it will be the future host site for raising Arctic grayling brood stock to be used to reintroduce that native fish to Michigan waters.

For more information on Michigan’s state fish hatcheries, visit Michigan.gov/Hatcheries.

Find out more about Michigan’s renewable energy efforts.