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MI utility seeks landowners, communities to site solar arrays

Solar panels (solar cell) in solar farm with sun lighting to cre
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As Michigan aims to reach economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050, with interim 2030 goals, the state's largest utility is working to transition its energy sources to renewables.

Consumers Energy is seeking partnerships with landowners and communities for siting utility-scale solar arrays.

Dennis Dobbs, vice president of enterprise project management and environmental services for Consumers Energy, noted they have already begun adding 1,100 megawatts of solar capacity to be ready by 2024.

"A typical solar plant for utility scale, which is the most cost-effective way to deliver solar, is going to be somewhere in the 100 to 150 megawatts size," Dobbs explained. "And that is going to take -- just for one plant -- roughly 500 to 1,000 acres. And so we're going to need quite a bit of land."

Dobbs pointed out the best prospects for solar plant land are flat, open, relatively free of trees and accessible to the sun. Parcels could include farm fields -- especially those less than ideal for growing crops -- brownfield sites or publicly owned properties.

Dobbs added the solar effort is part of the utility's proposed Clean Energy Plan, which would reduce carbon emissions by more than 63 million tons.

"We need landowners that are interested in having solar and actually getting some of the benefits of solar," Dobbs outlined. "And then local communities and leaders who really want to have solar as part of their communities, and then reaping the benefits that come along with that."

He emphasized solar brings economic benefits to both landowners and local communities. Landowners can enter into long-term easement agreements with the company to create an ongoing revenue source, and solar plants create hundreds of construction jobs.

Originally from just outside Boston, Lily Bohlke is formerly from 2020Talks, a show tracking politics and elections, that started prior to the 2020 Iowa caucuses at KHOI in Ames. She's also a past intern for the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism.
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