DTE Energy plant increases Michigan’s solar capacity by 47%

Michigan doesn’t immediately come to mind when people think of the United States’ solar powerhouses, and with good reason.

As of 2016, Michigan had installed 103 MW of solar capacity, or enough to power approximately 15,000 homes. In contrast, California has installed more than 18  GW of solar (5 GW in 2016 alone) that powers nearly 5 million homes, according to the most recent U.S. Solar Market Insight Report.

Still, Becky Stanfield, Vote Solar’s Senior Director for the Western States, told pv magazine in July that Michigan, while not currently a Midwest solar power, is a state to keep on the radar of states poised for enormous solar growth.

Now, DTE Energy, a Detroit-based diversified energy company, has increased that 103 MW number by nearly 47% with the commissioning of its Lapeer Solar Park. The 48 MW project, made up of 200,000 solar panels, was constructed by Inovateus Solar in conjunction with Barton Malow and J. Rank Electric. DTE broke ground on the project in Spring 2016.

According to the company’s announcement, solar electricity makes up 7% of the company’s generation portfolio, far more than the large majority of utilities in the nation. The Lapeer project also brings the company’s investment in solar energy to $170 million in the last decade.

“The Lapeer project has been extremely positive for our residents,” said William Sprague, Lapeer’s mayor. “It has called attention to Lapeer not only throughout the state but nationwide. I have received many calls from others in government regarding the project’s benefits and what they can do to attract solar projects to their communities.”

John Farrell, director of democratic energy for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), based in Minnesota, told pv magazine in July that Michigan will see hundreds of megawatts in solar growth in the near future. “Once that happens, the momentum will be difficult to stop,” he added.