A single megawatt of solar energy can power about 200 homes in the U.S., which means 16 megawatts can power 3,200 or so households with clean, renewable electricity. That’s the amount of new capacity Michigan recently added after eight new solar projects went online that will produce up to 16 megawatts of power.
The projects went online in early January, with five in Genesee County and three in Saginaw County. All eight were built and are operated by Pine Gate Renewables, an Asheville, N.C.-based utility-scale solar company. The projects are owned by Kayne Anderson Capital Partners of Los Angeles, which has a 20-year agreement to sell the power to Michigan-based public utility Consumers Energy.
Each of the operating sites produces two megawatts, or enough electricity to power more than 400 homes. The 16 additional megawatts add to the 10 megawatts of solar power Consumers Energy already had available to customers.
The new sites are spread across three different Michigan municipalities: Mt. Morris Township, Clio, and Saginaw. They’ve all been given catchy names: Captain Solar, Interchange Solar, Coldwater Solar, Jack Francis Solar, May Shannon Solar, Geddes 1 Solar, Geddes 2 Solar, and Stoneheart Solar. The projects include more than 56,000 solar panels and have added 240 local construction jobs.
Consumers Energy has agreements to buy energy from six more Pine Gate/Kayne Anderson solar projects that are currently under development elsewhere in the Wolverine State. Those sites, combined with the other eight that just went online, will inject some $80 million of capital into Michigan and contribute $11 million in tax revenue.
“Becoming a leader in solar energy in Michigan has been an important focus of Kayne Anderson over the last several years,” Jon Levinson, the company’s co-head of renewables, said in a statement. “We are very pleased to have brought this initial wave of projects into construction with our partners at Pine Gate, and we are very excited about the continued build-out of our solar footprint in Michigan over the next several years.”
The new solar capacity is part of a broader Clean Energy Plan that Consumers Energy unveiled a couple of years ago. The plan aims to accomplish the following by 2040:
- End coal use to generate electricity
- Reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent from 2005 levels
- Meet customers’ needs with 90 percent clean energy resources.
“These solar plants coming online are a testament to our commitment to solar energy in Michigan as a major component of the Clean Energy Plan, our blueprint for a coal-free and carbon-neutral future,” said Tim Sparks, vice president of electric grid integration at Consumers Energy.
Michigan has made big strides in adopting more renewable energy initiatives in recent years. The state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) rose to 15 percent this year from 10 percent in 2015, according to Michigan.gov. The RPS, also known as a renewable electricity standard, is a regulatory policy designed to increase the production of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and biomass by requiring or encouraging electricity suppliers to provide their customers with a stated minimum share of electricity from eligible renewable resources.
Solar isn’t the only renewable energy source being embraced by Michigan utilities. The state recently saw the completion of the Gratiot Farms Wind Project in Gratiot County, as reported in The Business Download Clean Energy. The $260 million project is expected to generate up to 150 megawatts of wind energy. It was completed by Consumers Energy, which bought the project from Enel Green Power North America. Gratiot Farms Wind includes 60 wind turbines and is located in the townships of North Shade and New Haven.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that Michigan ranks among the top 15 states in the country in generating electricity from wind. Renewable energy resources are used to generate about 8 percent of Michigan’s electricity.
Meanwhile, the new Michigan sites also add to the growing portfolio of Pine Gate Renewables. It now operates 64 solar projects from coast to coast that deliver more than 700 megawatts of energy. The company has more than 10 gigawatts in active development.
“We’re excited to be a part of developing renewable energy in Michigan,” said Pine Gate Renewables CEO Ben Catt. “Each solar project provides tax revenue, jobs, and clean energy to the local communities.”