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Community Solar Could Be Coming Soon to MI

PHOTO: Many homes aren't suitable for rooftop solar installations, but community solar projects, supported by the state's two largest utilities, could offer a means for more people in Michigan to access solar energy. Photo credit: Jusben/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Many homes aren't suitable for rooftop solar installations, but community solar projects, supported by the state's two largest utilities, could offer a means for more people in Michigan to access solar energy. Photo credit: Jusben/morguefile.com.
August 11, 2014

LANSING, Mich. - The future of solar energy is looking brighter in Michigan.

A new report shows the state's two largest utilities both plan to offer community solar programs.

Julie Baldwin with the Michigan Public Service Commission's renewable energy division says that would mean Consumers Energy or DTE customers who aren't able to have their own solar installations could buy into a larger installation in their neighborhood or town, and still reap the benefits of solar power.

"They could invest in this community solar project and receive a credit on their bill," Baldwin said. "It allows people who aren't really able to participate in their own solar project, to participate."

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates 75 percent of Americans can't own or lease their own solar systems, either because their roofs are physically unsuitable or they live in multifamily housing. The final report from the Michigan Solar Working Group is on the website.

Michigan currently has two small community solar projects launched by co-operatives, while the Lansing Board of Water and Light is in the process of developing what would be the state's largest community solar array. Although there are still issues to work out with the utilities, Baldwin said the tide is turning regarding the feasibility of solar power.

"The price of solar has come down a lot," said Baldwin. "Looking at solar installations happening around the country, I feel we're likely to see significantly more solar in Michigan."

Baldwin said Consumers Energy will file plans to develop a community solar project by the end of the year, while DTE indicated support for the idea but with no specific filing date at this point.

Mona Shand/Scott Herron, Public News Service - MI