Utility-run voluntary renewable energy program reaches 50,000 subscribers

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One of the nation’s largest voluntary renewable energy programs reached a milestone, as Michigan utility DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower achieved 50,000 subscribers. Each week, the program gains approximately 500 new customers, who voluntarily sign up to pay a premium to have their electricity demand tied to a new renewable energy generation site.

The popularity of the program has caused a boom in solar PV and wind energy for the state. The MIGreenPower program has doubled in enrollment for each of the past three years. To date, customers have already enrolled in 1.8 million MWh, and DTE increased its renewable energy generation by 40% in 2021.

DTE reached 15% renewable energy operations in 2021, which it said represents taking 293,000 passenger cars off the road. By this calculation, the utility’s current operations have the carbon impact of over 1.6 million passenger cars, so the MIGreenPower program’s success thus far is a welcome sign to those who are invested in fighting climate change-causing carbon emissions.

“Our customers are demanding a Grid of the Future, a modern new grid delivering clean and reliable energy, and we’re delivering it.” Jerry Norcia, president and CEO, DTE Energy.

Several projects are underway to meet the demand. Ranging from about 20MW, like the landfill-capping site in Washtenaw County, to 100MW or larger projects in rural areas in the state. MIGreenPower serves both residential and commercial customers and has numerous industrial energy purchasers. DTE said it plans to double its renewable energy generation by 2025, investing $3 billion in renewable infrastructure in the process.

The company issued a request for proposals (RFP) in February, calling for 500MW of solar PV or wind energy projects. The projects must be ready to achieve commercial operations by 2023, to be interconnected with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) grid. Bids are due April 29, 2022, and the company said it anticipates executing contracts this summer.

The Michigan Public Service Council (MPSC) said in an annual report that by the end of 2022, the state is expected to have 3,554 MW of operational renewable energy in response to the renewable energy standard. The MPSC said it expects the following renewable projects to come online this year:

  • Fairbanks Wind Park – 72.45 MW, Delta County
  • Meridian Wind Farm – 224.9 MW, Midland and Saginaw Counties
  • Heartland Farms Wind Farm – 200 MW, Gratiot County
  • Assembly Solar – 79 MW, Shiawassee County
  • River Fork Solar (DTE Electric) – 49 MW, Calhoun County
  • River Fork Solar (Consumers Energy) – 100 MW, Calhoun County

These projects would result in 725MW of new utility-scale generation.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranks Michigan 26th in solar deployment, with 599.4MW reported through Q3 2021. An estimated over 400MW was deployed in the state in 2021 alone, an indication that it may be yet another market set to expand rapidly. The state holds about 185 solar companies, including 65 manufacturers, 68 installer/developers, and 52 others, employing a combined total of 3,379 people.

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