Solar developer Ranger Power is making a name for itself in Michigan, as last week, the company secured over 1,200 acres of mostly farmlands for its proposed solar plant. Furthermore, local press reports that the project, if approved by the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners, would clock in with up to 239 MW in capacity.
That’s huge. Well, obviously 239 MW is huge, but what difference does size make without context? According to SEIA, Michigan’s total installed capacity as of the end of June is 118 MW-DC, placing it 33rd nationally. That means that this single project, assuming the final capacity is the reported maximum, would triple the state’s installed solar capacity.
What’s more is that for a project of truly unprecedented size, it’s receiving minimal objection to its development, according to Ron Fonger of Michigan Live. Shiawassee county Commissioner Brandon Marks told Michigan live that so long as the project’s special use permit falls within the county’s guidelines and construction follows the permit, it’s likely to move ahead.
Considering the county previously shot down plans for a 200 MW wind farm in the area, Ranger’s solar farm could be seen as a green alternative, without the constant reminder of dozens of turbines that locals took issue with.
If approved, Ranger hopes to get the project online by 2020. However, the plant does not yet have a power contract, although Ranger appears to be shopping the plant’s output to local utilities.
Another important point to note is that the project will be primarily constructed along what was previously farmland and that Ranger has purchase options with the landowners. This is significant because farmers and solar developers have a predominantly symbiotic history. Solar development allows farmers to receive a steady income on their land, while still maintaining the rows between and areas around the panels as land for plants or for livestock to graze.