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Room for Solar Growth in Michigan

Michigan ranks 34th in the country for its installed solar capacity. (Pixabay)
Michigan ranks 34th in the country for its installed solar capacity. (Pixabay)
December 15, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Strides are being made in the Midwest for renewable energy, but there's still room for improvement.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center says Michigan is falling behind other states in terms of solar energy development.

Attorney Brad Klein with the center explains Ohio has nearly four times the solar capacity of Michigan, and Illinois just passed a sweeping climate bill to grow its renewable energy technology, create jobs and lower utility bills.

Klein insists Michigan can follow their lead.

"In Michigan, there's tremendous solar potential,” he states. “We'll see if they're able to reach that potential, depending on the outcome of some legislative debates."

The Michigan state Senate recently passed legislation that would increase the state's renewable energy standard for utilities. It also establishes a plan to ensure the state can meet energy demand as it transitions away from coal toward renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

If the House doesn't take action on the bills before its session ends on Monday, lawmakers will have to go back to the drawing board when they return in January.

Klein describes the Midwest as a little slow to completely embrace the renewable energy industry, but he says it's starting to pick up.

"Over the last several years, there have been tremendous technology improvements and cost improvements for solar that are really putting us right on the cusp of a real boom in the solar market in the Midwest," he points out.

While advocates of renewable energy have expressed concern over President-elect Donald Trump's likely choice of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Klein maintains the industry will survive politics.

"What it does do, it makes the role of the states even more important,” he states. “So, while I think there are some reasons to be discouraged now about the direction of the federal policy in this area, I do think the development of more renewable energy and clean energy is inevitable."

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Michigan's 25-megawatts of solar power rank the state 34th in the nation for installed solar capacity.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI