Solar advocates and potential residential customers alike are feeling the heat in Michigan, as two of the state’s largest utilities, Upper Peninsula Power Co. and Consumers Energy, are closing in on their net metering caps, with no replacement programs in place.
In truth, Upper Peninsula has already reached its net metering cap, while Consumers Energy will likely do so by the end of the year. Once these caps are reached, the utilities have no further legal obligation to interconnect new distributed solar customers onto the grid, a prospect which could significantly stifle the state’s solar industry.
Even if the utilities continue to interconnect these customers after the caps are hit, there is no guarantee how much these customers would be credited for the excess power, which makes it exceedingly hard for customers and developers to calculate the return on investment for a potential project.
What’s more is that, despite support from both parties, legislative efforts to raise or eliminate the program, which currently sits at a cap of 1% of each utility’s peak load have gone nowhere. The most recent bill proposed, one which looks to eliminate the cap and is now a year old, has never been put up to a vote.
Developer Prospect14, formerly Glidepath Ventures, is appealing a decision made by Lower Mount Bethel Township officials to deny the development of a 154-acre, 61,000 panel project within the township.
The initial cause for denial came because the project’s proposed location is zoned as conservation and agricultural land, which do not allow solar farms as a permitted use.
Under the appeal, Prospect14 is asking the town’s hearing board to grant the application as a special exception, as a solar farm resembles a public utility, which the hearing board could allow in the district. If the board won’t allow that, the developer asks that the board grant the application as a variance. The developers argue that the proposed project would not negatively impact the surrounding neighborhood, as the installation would be masked in sight by landscaping and there will little to no traffic impact.
The thirteen people who have introduced themselves as objectors to the appeal, all of whom live in close proximity to the proposed site, reject this assertion.
If all else fails, Prospect14 will challenge the constitutional validity of the township’s zoning ordinances for not allowing solar farms.
The hearing is scheduled to continue with testimony at the board’s Nov. 18 virtual meeting.
After lagging behind in solar development for most of the last decade, Wisconsin is finally seeing more and more significant projects, including an announcement from Xcel Energy that the company has come to an agreement with Western Mustang Solar to develop a 74 MW solar installation in Pierce County.
Upon completion, the project will be the largest solar facility in western Wisconsin and among the largest installations in the state.
The project has already been approved by Pierce County official,s and Xcel shares that the company plans to file the application with state regulators later this week. Assuming no significant holdups, construction will begin in late 2021, with plans for completion and commercial operation in 2022.
Also in Wisconsin, Capital Dynamics has sold a 115-MW solar project portfolio to utility Alliant Energy. The portfolio is comprised of two projects: the 65-MW Paddock and the 50-MW Albany projects, both of which were developed by Capital Dynamics’ Clean Energy Infrastructure, in partnership with Tenaska.
The projects are expected to be completed and begin operation in 2023.
AEP Energy Partners, a subsidiary of American Electric Power is set to see a significant boon in the company’s solar generation portfolio, coming to terms on a power purchase agreement for the entire output of the upcoming 50-MW Columbus Solar Park.
The park is being developed by BQ Energy on a former landfill, owned by the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio and being leased by BQ Energy. The site is located just southwest of downtown Columbus, Ohio and the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
By itself, Columbus Solar Park is expected to be able to provide power to roughly 1% of AEP Energy Partners’ customers.
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