The Board of Water & Light has plans to install the largest solar array in Michigan as part of the expansion of its renewable energy portfolio, General Manager Dick Peffley told the Lansing State Journal.
Peffley said the proposal for an up to 186-acre array of solar panels would be “the largest solar array the state has ever seen” and would be installed in Delta Township near General Motors’ assembly plant. Peffley expects BWL to reveal details in a formal announcement “within weeks.”
The solar project would generate up to approximately 35,000 megawatt hours annually, enough to power at least 3,500 homes. BWL would purchase the power from groSolar under an agreement that would last 25 years and support a substation in the township.
A special land use permit for the solar project was approved with a 6-0 vote Monday night by the Delta Township Board. The project also must requirements for drainage and other zoning issues.
Peffley said the project would be paid for by a “small” surcharge BWL already is collecting from the city-owned utility’s ratepayers and could begin construction in the fall.
“For the size of the Board of Water & Light and for what we’re doing, this is something the ratepayers of Lansing can be proud of,” Peffley said of the project.
The BWL is working with groSolar, a Vermont-based company, on the project and wants to build up to 70,000 solar panels on two parcels of land in the township. Each panel would be 3-by-5 feet and generate up to 315 watts, said Steve Remen, groSolar’s executive vice president. Remen added that construction of the panels would take up to four months.
In a news release after the township board’s vote, BWL officials said the project will create 150 temporary full time construction jobs and generate approximately $5 million in wages.
A Vermont company called groSolar has plans to install up to 70,000 solar panels like these in Delta Township.
Despite Michigan being known as a state with plenty of overcast days — especially in the winter — groSolar is eager to pursue several projects here. Even when skies are overcast, solar panels still produce power and produce gains for the renewable energy industry, Remen said.
“It’s not the only answer,” Remen said of solar power’s potential. “But it can be part of the solution.”
One of the parcels for the Delta Solar Power project, according to the planning commission memo, is currently the 189-acre site of Sundance Riding Stables, 9250 Nixon Road. The parcel is bounded by Sundance Highway, Guinea Road and Nixon Road. Another parcel for the proposed project is 102 acres. The memo states it is 1,400 feet south of Sundance Highway and 500 feet north of Davis Highway.
Dennis Goulding, 50, was one of three township residents at Monday night’s meeting who expressed concern about the solar project’s location because he lives on Guinea Road. But after hearing details, he’d rather have solar panels on grass than land developers could use for more shopping plazas.
“It doesn’t matter if (the township) is going to do it,” said Goulding, an employee at GM’s Delta Plant. “What matters is if you can deal with it.”
Peffley said GM officials want the solar project BWL proposes near their Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant so it can compliment the Energy Star-certified facility. The plant, at 8175 Millett Hwy., opened in 2006 and is the automaker’s newest plant in North America. It produces the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.
“This is huge and it’s a good deal for our customers,” Peffley said of the project, which has GM support.
The Detroit Free Press reported in September that DTE said its 9.37-acre project at Domino’s Farms in Ann Arbor Township is the state’s largest solar array with over 4,000 panels. The project, generating 1.1 megawatts, opened on Aug. 25 and reportedly generates power for up to 200 homes.
BWL’s news release said the Delta Township project will be the only utility-scale solar array in Michigan and 18 times the size of the next largest solar installation currently operating in the state.
Peffley said the new solar project in Delta Township is “a spinoff” of BWL’s community solar program. The BWL announced in October plans to build a community solar park at East Lansing’s Burcham Park. Another solar park is planned near the utility’s Wise Road Water Treatment Plant in Lansing. Those sites are expected to produce 300 kilowatts of power each.
All BWL residential and commercial electric customers are eligible to participate in its community solar program by leasing 300-watt solar panels for $399 each for 25 years. In return, customers would receive credit on their utility bills for the solar power their leased panels produce. For more information about the program, visit micommunitysolar.org.