MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – Plans for a 1,700-acre solar energy project in northern Muskegon County are the focus of an upcoming public forum featuring farmers whose property would be used for the project.
The Lakeshore Solar Project, proposed for farmland in White River Township, will be discussed during the forum from 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, at Montague City Hall, 8778 Ferry Street.
The forum will feature a panel discussion by farmers involved in the project and a question-and-answer session.
National Grid Renewables, based in Bloomington, Minnesota, has proposed the solar project that would produce up to 200 megawatts of energy, according to its web site. It would connect to the DuPont – Cobb Transmission Line.
The rough boundaries of the proposed project are Meinert Park Road on the north, Lamos Road on the east, Post Road on the south and Lehman Road on the west.
The proposal is mostly supported by the White Lake Area Climate Action Council, which is hosting Wednesday’s Farmer’s Forum on Solar Energy with the group Reviving Our American Democracy (ROAD).
The WLACAC has stated that some amendments should be made to the proposal but touts the project as a way to rest and restore valuable farmland with solar panels that will be recycled at the end of their useful lives.
The council also supports renewable energy, but noted in a published opinion piece that “horrific damage” had been done by the chemical industry and that “vigilant” and “strong regulations” will be needed.
Those opposed to the Lakeshore Solar Project, including the group Stop Industrial Solar in White River Township, say it will ruin the beauty of the rural landscape and could have negative impacts on wildlife.
The project requires a special use permit from the White River Township board because it is larger than 1,000 square feet.
The board last month placed a six-month moratorium on any new or expanded solar energy facilities. An attorney for National Grid Renewables objected to that amendment
In late 2019, the board approved a solar ordinance setting out rules for large solar panel installations.
Those include a restriction preventing solar panels from being taller than 12 feet, requiring the use of earthen berms or native plantings to shield nearby residences from the installation and requiring a perimeter security fence.
Transmission, collection and interconnection lines have to be buried unless the planning commission approves above-ground lines.
National Grid Renewables operates two solar projects in Michigan, including Temperance Solar in Monroe County and Bingham Solar in Clinton County. Together, they produce 40 megawatts of energy, and each has a power purchase agreement with Consumers Energy.
It also has solar projects in Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio; solar and wind energy projects in South Dakota; and wind and battery storage projects in Texas, according to its website.
The company’s hope is to have the solar project operating by 2025. It has estimated the project’s lifespan at 25 years.
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