Michigan utility's first brownfield solar project highlights promise, challenges

November 4, 2019

Department: Energy Central News

Consumers Energy and state officials say solar projects have potential to add value when redeveloping polluted properties

A solar project in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula is the first to use state grant funding to clean up contaminated industrial property.

The 500 kilowatt solar installation planned at a vacant eyesore is effectively a pilot project that Consumers Energy and state officials say could lead to more solar on contaminated land, also known as brownfields.

"We looked at this as a win-win opportunity for all parties involved," said Rhonda Welcher, Consumers' solar gardens project manager. "We re looking at these sites around the state as a real model for what we can do in terms of development and making a positive impact. It s our first foray into this area. We re hoping it can be a model for future development."

While "brownfield-to-brightfield" development -- using sites like former industrial facilities, mines and landfills for solar -- is a "no-brainer," advocates say, the relatively new concept still faces potential cost barriers and a complicated development process. Despite the enthusiasm expressed by Consumers and state officials, no formal policy or dedicated funding for putting solar on these sites yet exists.

The solar project at the Mitchell-Bentley site in Cadillac triggered $1 million in state grants and loans through Michigan's brownfield redevelopment program. The money was awarded to the city, which will pay off the loan portion through increased property tax revenue from future development on the site. The solar panels will be on the southern border of the property while city officials anticipate a new industrial tenant when the pollution is remediated.

Read the entire article Michigan utility s first brownfield solar project highlights promise, challenges.

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