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Solar on the move: Whitmer signs bills as large projects take off PHOTO: Lance Nelson Photo

Solar on the move: Whitmer signs bills as large projects take off

BY Sunday, November 17, 2019 06:40pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills into law Thursday night ensuring small-scale residential and commercial solar projects won’t increase owners’ property taxes.

The bills cleared the state Legislature with near-unanimous support this year as clean energy and business advocacy groups say they will help clear up confusion about the patchwork of enforcement among local taxing entities. Similar legislation last year was sent to Gov. Rick Snyder, who cited technical concerns while vetoing them during his last days in office. 

MiBiz first reported Whitmer’s support for the bills earlier this month.

“These bills simplify the current taxation system on on-site renewable energy,” Whitmer said at an awards ceremony Thursday hosted by the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council. Whitmer was joined by bill sponsors while signing the package on a solar panel. “It’s a positive step in advancing clean energy while increasing jobs and protecting the pocketbooks of Michiganders. That’s the kind of win-win-win we need to see in Michigan.”

The bipartisan legislation applies to small-scale projects up to 150 kilowatts that offset a portion or all of an owner’s electricity usage. It restores tax exemptions that were signed by former Gov. John Engler that expired in 2013.

Whitmer said her support for the bills is the administration’s latest in a series of moves backing clean energy during her first 11 months in office. Whitmer has committed Michigan to the U.S. Climate Alliance in which states aim for greenhouse gas emission goals outlined under the Paris climate agreement. Earlier this year, state agencies were directed to use energy efficiency to decrease their electricity usage.

In June, the administration issued a new policy allowing commercial solar projects on agricultural land enrolled in the state’s farmland preservation program.

Whitmer also said the state is well positioned to lead on clean transportation.

“We have a unique opportunity to harness our innovative workforce to protect and environment and make Michigan a nationwide leader in clean energy,” Whitmer said. “We’ve taken important steps over the course of the last 11 months. We have got to continue to work together to fight back against climate change and ensure the health and safety of future generations is embraced and protected right here in Michigan.”

Large-scale projects moving

Meanwhile, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based developer is moving forward on two large-scale solar projects that will triple Michigan’s total installed capacity when they come online next year.

Ranger Power started construction last week on its Assembly Solar Project in Shiawassee County, an up to 239 megawatt project spanning more than 1,200 acres.

Last week, township officials approved Ranger’s 149 MW River Fork Solar in Calhoun County. The developer in September reached an agreement with Consumers Energy to sell 100 MW of the power for 20 years to the utility, its first large-scale solar buy as part of its major buildout in the coming decade. Michigan has about 165 MW of total installed solar capacity.

“We are encouraged by the continued community support for River Fork Solar’s project in Calhoun County, which is the first large-scale solar project in Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan,” Timothy Sparks, Consumers’ vice president of electric grid integration, said in a statement.

Early construction may start by the end of the year at the Calhoun County site, while both Ranger projects are expected to come online next year.

“The success of River Fork Solar is the result of our community-first approach to development,” Ranger President Paul Harris said in a statement. “River Fork Solar will provide clean, renewable energy to Michigan consumers, while creating new jobs in Sheridan Township and contributing to the economic health of Calhoun County and the region.”

Read 4696 times Last modified on Sunday, 17 November 2019 21:40