A recent meeting of the Montcalm Economic Alliance saw representatives from a utility-scale developer based in Brooklyn, known as , discussing a “” project proposal. This would entail a large-scale solar farm opening in .   

Freshwater Solar Project 

and , Developers at Ranger Power, went over a concept that would entail 1,200 acres of rural farmland being transformed into a . This farm would be located in northeastern Montcalm Country and would generate roughly 200 MW of energy. According to Vielbig, the freshwater solar project has thus far been well received.  

This past summer, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that, by changing tax policy, opened more than three million acres of farmland for solar energy development. This clean energy-friendly choice was actually a reversal from a previous decision, which had allowed for cell phone towers and wind turbines to be placed on land; however, if commercial solar leases were desired, farmers would have to end their contracts with the state, which would risk costing thousands.  

Commercial Solar Farms Mean New Income Streams 

Gov. Whitmer’s clean energy-friendly policy is anticipated to create a new income stream for farmers. Ranger Power would like its third commercial-scale solar farm in  to be installed on the property of farmers in Montcalm County. The other commercial solar farm projects are in Shiawassee County (construction began in January on the $250 million “Assembly Solar” project – it should generate enough electricity for roughly 35,000 houses) and Calhoun County. The River Fork Solar project is yet another endeavor in Shiawassee County that will see 750 acres of land covered in solar panels.  

As for Montcalm County’s Freshwater Solar project, land will continue to be secured this year. Construction is expected to start early in 2021, and the farm could be operating by the end of that year.  

Here is some more great news – the local economy would see 300 construction jobs with up to $12 million in estimated earnings. The Ranger Power projects could end up creating 1,000 construction worker jobs throughout the state of Michigan. Wow!  

Once it is finished, the Freshwater Solar farm is estimated to last up to four decades — and it could generate more than $20 million in tax revenue during its operation. 

The solar farm will consist of economical solar technology, such as photovoltaic panel tracking systems.  

When the company was looking for a site for its third solar energy farm in Michigan, according to Harris, rural, flat land was important, along with an interconnection to a utility company. The site discovered is, of course, surrounded by farmland.  

Renewable energy has become a major focus of utility companies such as DTE and 

over the years, specifically through new integrated resource plans. In accordance with recent renewable energy standard updates in Michigan, a specific amount of electricity sold by utilities must come from renewable energy, such as solar power. The number for next year, 2021, is 15 percent. By 2025, this number will rise to 35 percent.  

Consumers Energy is forecasted to go above 15 percent, as the company is very interested in solar. In accordance with Harrislarge-scale solar project costs have come down significantly over the last few years – 80 percent – as a result of advanced tools, higher-efficiency solar cells, and resourceful construction methods. 

Harris also discussed how fossil fuel plants that have been used for decades are going to be coming offline soon, so solar energy is becoming even more popular. 

Harris and Vielbig emphasized that there would not be an environmental impact, as some voiced concerns about this potential fear. Quite the contrary, the solar farms are going to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and therefore improve air quality; and they will release no air emissions, ash generation or water emissions. Harris believes that the solar project is a great way to preserve agriculture.  

Clearly, there are an abundance of benefits to these solar farm projects and they should continue to become more feasible. Follow solar news to stay in the know!  

Sources: 

https://thedailynews.cc/articles/project-freshwater-solar/ 

https://thedailynews.cc/articles/wind-farms-knocking-on-montcalm-countys-door/ 

 

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