Tens of thousands of acres needed for solar fields to meet consumers’ climate energy goals

Consumers Energy officials are looking for suitable land to build nearly 8,000 megawatts of solar power to meet the company’s 2040 climate goals.

The facility puts solar power at the center of its clean energy plan, which requires 60 percent of renewables to meet customers’ energy needs over the next two decades. Officials expect that tens of thousands of acres of solar energy fields will be needed to fulfill the company’s climate promises, besides Retirees from coal-fired power generation.

Officials said the clean energy plan would reduce carbon dioxide emissions to consumers by more than 63 million tons.

The company is now seeking available farmland that is less than ideal for growing crops, brownfield sites, and even publicly owned plots between 500 and 900 acres that are flat, open and treeless, in addition to their proximity to existing power transmission lines.

“What we promised is going to require finding all this land.” “Finding farmland and other open space suitable for the location of the projects themselves,” said Brian Wheeler, a spokesperson for Consumer Energy.

To meet targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the company agreed to shut down all three coal-fired units at its JH Campbell plant in Ottawa County in 2025, accelerate development of battery energy storage, and launch massive amounts of solar fields across Michigan.

The plan is part of a proposed settlement with a coalition of stakeholders negotiated as part of the facility’s long-term energy plan; The deal is awaiting approval by the Michigan Public Services Commission (MPSC).

Dennis Dobbs, vice president of project management and environmental services, said consumers want to work with both private landowners and community leaders who want to build solar plants.

“Harnessing the sun is Michigan’s goal — and we will not achieve this historic goal without help,” Dobbs said in a statement.

He said the goal is to start talks with landowners about “mutually beneficial solar solutions”.

Consumers already have utility-scale solar projects underway with a projection of 1,100 megawatts of solar energy by 2024. The company plans to own half of these projects and purchase solar power generated by private solar developers.

Consumers recently proposed to the MPSC to make $272 million in investments to promote better reliability and resilience across the state’s power grid, as well as to develop future clean energy generation.

It’s part of the company’s five-year, $5.4 billion Electricity Distribution Infrastructure Investment Plan that includes extensive tree pruning, power pole replacement and substations upgraded to better withstand frequent and severe storms due to climate change. The facility’s plan is to invest about $1 billion annually to modernize the power grid through 2025.

Related articles: Michigan utilities struggle to conserve energy as climate change intensifies

The main priority for the plan is fewer, shorter, and less frequent blackouts, which require a modern grid, said Jay Packard, the company’s vice president of electrical operations.

Consumers asked to change the price to customers to cover the cost of investments. The company said the average customer would see their bill increase by about $7.50 per month, if approved by MPSC.

Other elements of the investment plan call for support for the purchase of the clandestine 1,100 MW natural gas power plant in Van Buren County; ease of installation of electric vehicle chargers for resident customers; The proposed economic development capacity rate to attract new business; and promoting clean energy investments, such as doubling the volume of distributed solar power generation.

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