Consumers Energy seeks Michigan landowners to locate solar farms

Jackson’s Consumers Energy is looking to partner with landowners and communities at sites for new solar farm projects across the state. // Image bank

Consumers Energy, one of Michigan’s largest energy providers based in Jackson, announced plans to work with landowners and communities to identify locations for utility-scale solar power plants that will provide clean, renewable energy.

Consumers Energy Says Solar Energy Is Centerpiece Of Regulated Utility’s Clean Energy Plan To Meet Michigan’s Energy Needs Over The Next 20 Years While Protecting The Environment By Eliminating Coal And Meeting Emissions net zero carbon.

With regulatory approval, it plans an expansion to add 8,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar power by 2040, as it says more than 60% of its electric capacity will come from renewable sources. Consumers Energy searches tens of thousands of acres throughout Michigan.

“We need support throughout Michigan, especially in rural and agricultural areas, and we want to work with landowners and local leaders interested in siting solar power plants to provide environmental and economic benefits to their communities. “, says Dennis Dobbs, Vice President of Enterprise Project. environmental management and services. “Harnessing the sun is Michigan’s moonshot – and we won’t achieve this historic goal without help.”

Consumers Energy has already started adding 1,100 megawatts of solar capacity to come online by 2024. It plans to own 50% of this additional solar capacity and buy the remaining half from solar developers.

Large-scale solar projects capable of generating around 100 megawatts offer the best value for customers, but require a significant amount of land – between five and ten acres per megawatt of power – that is flat, open and treeless with easy access. direct sunlight and close to existing transmission infrastructure.

Ideal project sites for solar power plants are around 500 to 900 acres and often consist of several neighboring landowners. Potential locations include:

  • Agricultural fields – including those less ideal for growing crops
  • Brownfields
  • Public properties

With solar power in mind, the company’s proposed clean energy plan would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 63 million tons. This is equivalent to taking 12.4 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

Consumers state that the solar panels do not leach or emit harmful chemicals into the ground or air and are not expected to negatively affect local wildlife. It will complete a detailed environmental inventory of the project area and work with landowners and relevant federal, state, and local agencies to review all environmental concerns. This includes identifying and protecting threatened or endangered species and their habitats.

Topsoil is left in place and solar panel sites are seeded with native grasses and pollinating plants to promote biodiversity. The land can usually be cultivated again after being used as a solar installation.

In addition to its environmental benefits, solar power is becoming more competitive, and Consumers Energy can gradually add it to meet Michigan’s changing energy needs without building a large new fossil-fuel-fired power plant.

The siting of solar power plants provides economic benefits to landowners and communities.

  • Participating landowners can sell their property to us or create an ongoing revenue stream by entering into long-term easement agreements.
  • Solar power plants create hundreds of construction jobs and can boost a community’s income to help fund education and essential basic services.

“Our goal is to meet with Michigan homeowners and communities where they are to start a conversation about mutually beneficial solar solutions,” says Dobbs.

Additionally, Katie Carey, director of external relations at Consumers Energy, says the utility will fulfill its responsibilities when the solar panels complete their productive life cycle. At that time, he plans to partner with a qualified solar panel recycler to reuse, scrap, and dispose of all decommissioned panels in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

“Because most of our solar installations are so new, we are still 20 years away from disposal needs. In the situation where the panels fail before their end of life, we are working with the manufacturer on warranty and disposal issues,” Carey replied in an email.

“Over 95% of photovoltaic panels are recyclable and several regional recyclers currently recycle panels in Ohio, Wisconsin and Tennessee. With the infrastructure (substations and power grid connections) in place that lasts over 50 years, replacing and upgrading panels can easily extend the overall useful life of a facility.

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