A new solar farm on Lake Wilson Road in Jonesville is planning to begin sending out power on Friday, Jan. 15, according to Tami von Isakovics, director of communications and marketing at Pine Gate Renewables.
This solar farm is one of 14 in Michigan organized by Consumers Energy, Pine Gate Renewables, and Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors.
The solar farm projects began last spring; eight of the 14 sites began sending renewable electricity to Consumers Energy customers earlier this month, according to a Jan. 8 press release from Consumers Energy.
Dave Postma, vice president of construction at Pine Gate Renewable and a native of Midland, Michigan, has overseen the project.
These solar farms will more than double the company’s solar energy capacity, adding up to 16 megawatts to the 10 megawatts of solar energy previously available to customers.
Construction of the Lake Wilson Road site, a 16-acre farm known as the Bullhead project, began on Oct. 5 of last year. The new site should produce about two megawatts annually.
Consumers Energy, a public utility that provides natural gas and electricity to more than half of Michigan’s residents across all 68 Lower Peninsula countries, has a 20-year agreement to buy energy from the projects, according to the press release.
Terry DeDoes, senior public information director at Consumers Energy, says that the transition to solar is part of the company’s clean energy plan.
“We are going to eliminate coal and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040,” DeDoes said. “A big part of that renewable portfolio will be from solar. We are planning to add 6,000 megawatts of solar to our system.”
DeDoes noted that there is still work to be done to achieve this goal, including more solar farms to come.
“Currently, we source around 11% renewable energy,” DeDoes said. “In 2030, we plan to be at 42%, which gives you an idea of how we are ratcheting up the number of renewables that make up the electricity that we are providing our customers.”
The decreased cost of solar energy and the shorter development period has also made solar the most attractive choice for renewable energy in Michigan, DeDoes said.
According to Tami von Isakovics, director of communications and marketing at Pine Gate Renewables, energy prices should not increase with the new energy source.
“The price of electricity should be about the same price or less,” von Isakovics said. “The community can feel good about clean energy.”
Pine Gate Renewables’ presence in the community will also see an increased tax base, and the local community will receive tax benefits from the solar power, DeDoes said.
Finally, von Isakovics said the project has employed local workers.
“We employed 240 local workers for the initial 8 projects,” von Isakovics said. “We always hire locally.”
Pine Gate Renewables is a solar farm developer based in Asheville, North Carolina, with solar farms across the country, from Oregon to South Carolina, according to its website. The company currently operates solar projects in five states, according to Hillsdale Daily News.
Pine Gate “originates, develops, finances, and operates” solar farms, generating power for local communities, according to its website. They strategically position farms close to existing utility, also considering their surroundings to ensure minimal environmental impact.
“We are protecting the planet here in Michigan,” DeDoes said. “The people are benefiting, and it’s a way to help support prosperity with the local jobs and the construction of the site.”