As Michigan aims to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, with interim targets for 2030, the state’s largest utility is working to transition from its energy sources to renewables.
Consumers Energy seeks partnerships with landowners and communities to install utility-scale solar panels.
Dennis Dobbs, vice president of enterprise project management and environmental services for Consumers Energy, noted that they have already started adding 1,100 megawatts of solar capacity to be ready by 2024.
“A typical usage-scale solar installation, the most cost-effective way to provide solar energy, will be somewhere between 100 and 150 megawatts,” explains Dobbs. “And that’s going to take – just for one plant – about 500 to 1,000 hectares. So we’re going to need quite a bit of land.”
Dobbs pointed out that the best prospects for solar plants are flat, open, relatively tree-free and accessible to the sun. Plots may include farmland – especially fields that are not ideal for growing crops – brownfield land or government property.
Dobbs added that the solar effort is part of the utility’s proposed Clean Energy Plan, which would reduce carbon emissions by more than 63 million tons.
“We need landowners who are interested in solar energy and actually want some of the benefits of solar energy,” Dobbs outlined. “And then local communities and leaders who really want to have solar as part of their community and reap the benefits that come with it.”
He emphasized that solar energy provides economic benefits for both landowners and local communities. Landowners can enter into long-term easement agreements with the company to create an ongoing source of income, and solar power plants create hundreds of construction jobs.
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