Michigan is making headway towards the state’s first big-time utility-scale solar project, as Consumers Energy and Ranger Power have finalized a power purchase agreement (PPA) for Consumers to buy the output of 100 MW of Ranger’s planned 149 MW River Fork Solar project.
This is huge news for a state that, to date, has installed just 153 MW. This particular purchase agreement is for 20 years. That’s noteworthy, though it didn’t used to be. Just a couple of years ago the 20-year PPA was pretty much the industry standard, but we have recently seen a trend towards the 12-15-year range.
Equally important is that the deal represents a significant step towards this project becoming a reality, as power contracts are one of the biggest necessities for a project before construction can begin. Speaking of construction, River Fork Solar is anticipated to take a year to construct, going on-line in either late 2020 or early 2021 and creating an anticipated 269 jobs along the way.
What’s more is this isn’t the only massive plant potentially coming to Michigan. In fact, it’s the smaller of the two, as in January, Ranger Power was approved by Shiawassee County regulators to develop a 239 MW project in Shiawassee County, though the project has yet to reach approval from state regulators.
Now we get to play the exponential capacity game. This is truly unprecedented development for the region. As was said earlier, Michigan’s total installed capacity stands at 153 MW, placing it 31st nationally, according to SEIA. That means that these two projects, assuming the final capacity is the reported maximum, would represent a 260% increase in the state’s total installed solar capacity.
The Shiawassee County project, however, does not have a PPA yet, though it is located suspiciously close to a Consumers Energy station. That’s not the only issue, as according to local press, the project has been stalled due to Shiawassee leaders accidentally put the wrong date on a flyer advertising a hearing on the project, as well as criticism from citizens over the aesthetic burden the project would impose on them. Before this project, the county rejected a 200 MW wind farm in the same area.
However even if the Shiawassee project never comes to be, River Fork Solar will still represent a nearly 100% increase in total installed capacity within the state – no small feat.