From Scrap To Bat Habitat: Eagle Scout Project An Environmental Winner

JACKSON — Nature’s mosquito control engineers — bats — will have more housing options around Consumers Energy’s hydroelectric sites around Michigan thanks to the efforts of a Boy Scout and scrap auto parts from General Motors.

For an Eagle Scout project, Matthew Netherland and helpers built 22 bat boxes out of scrap Chevrolet Volt battery covers donated by GM — boxes Consumers Energy plans to install on its hydro properties.

“This project connects a lot of environmental dots,” said Rich Castle, Consumers Energy’s natural resource manager for hydro generation. “Hydro dams generate clean electricity, and cars that run on electricity are a cleaner form of transportation. The battery covers from the electric-powered vehicles are being kept out of landfills, and by being utilized as bat homes they allow biodiversity to thrive along the river habitats that produce renewable energy.”

About 100 or more bats can live in each bat box, which includes five chambers. Netherland, a friend and two adult mentors helped build 30 bat boxes in about two months, 22 of which will be installed by Consumers Energy.

“I’m thankful that GM had the perfect shell for the bat box plans, and that Consumers Energy has great locations to place the boxes,” said Netherland, a member of Boy Scout Troop 185 in Clarkston. “Both companies have been great to work with, very encouraging and generous.”

Added GM environmental engineer Emily McDonald, who coordinated the effort: “I’m so impressed by Matthew’s energy and dedication to this project. We’ve worked with renowned bat experts on our bat house design and are grateful that we can partner with others who share our passion for conservation and will help us make a lasting impact. The Volt covers are made with durable material and will result in wildlife nesting opportunities for a long time.”

GM has now built more than 520 wood duck, bat and bluebird nesting boxes from Volt battery covers, with many peppered throughout its facilities’ grounds.

Consumers Energy has hydroelectric generation dams along the Au Sable River in northeast Lower Michigan, and the Grand, Kalamazoo, Manistee and Muskegon rivers in West Michigan. The utility provides natural gas and electricity to 6.5 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

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