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solar energy

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy plans to dramatically increase its use of solar energy by the year 2040.

It's a big part of the utility's first long-term energy plan, required by Michigan's new energy law.

CEO Patti Poppe says solar is clean energy, and the cost of providing it is likely to come down by 35% by 2040.

And she says solar is one of the best options for providing electricity at times of peak demand.

Michigan Radio

Until recently, if a home solar array produced more electricity than the house used, it would go through the meter onto the grid. Residents with solar power arrays got paid for that power at the same rate as the power company charged other residents.  Power that comes in/power that goes out: same price. This even exchange is called net metering.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The state's energy regulating agency has issued some decisions that should relieve some of the financial burden on large companies that want to become greener.

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Mott Community College will use a $20,000 grant from Cypress Creek Renewables to help develop a solar energy training program.

The grant will support curriculum development for electric workers and construction workers who specialize in commercial solar installations.

Kevin Borgia is Cypress Creek Renewable's Midwest Policy Director.  He says Mott's new program will reach out in particular to women, minorities, and veterans.

solar panels
David Goehring / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Two solar energy companies say DTE Energy is stonewalling to keep them out of the state.

Kevin Borgia is with Cypress Creek Renewables, which plans up to 700 megawatts of new solar farms in Michigan.

He says the company can't proceed without first getting basic information from DTE, like where's a good place to connect to DTE's grid - and what kind of transmission upgrades will be needed.

He says DTE is violating state law by continually failing to meet deadlines to provide the information. "Over 100 times DTE has failed to meet those deadlines," he says.

Workers install solar panels on a roof
Alex Snyder / Wayne National Forest/Wikimedia Commons

Starting some time next year, electric utilities will be able to submit lower reimbursements to the Michigan Public Service Commission to compensate their solar customers.

Right now, when a customer with a solar roof creates more electricity than needed, it becomes available to the grid.

Utilities pay the customer the same rate that they themselves charge.

solar panels on roof of home
pixabay

Advocates for solar energy are calling for a change in state law, after the Michigan Tax Tribunal sided with the city of Ann Arbor in a dispute over the value of solar panels.

The city increased a couple's property tax assessment by more than $5,500 after they installed solar panels on the roof of their home.

Becky Stanfield is with Vote Solar. She says taxing someone for putting in solar panels is like taxing them for buying a more energy-efficient refrigerator or other appliance.

Cypress Creek Renewables

Cypress Creek Renewables has been lining up farmland in Michigan for more than a year now.

The object? Leases for enough land to install several hundred megawatts worth of new, emissions-free solar projects. Combined, that would equal the electricity output of a small coal-fired power plant.

But a bill introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., could put a halt to those plans, as well as the plans of other renewable energy companies that want to set up shop in Michigan and states across the nation.

Modernizing PURPA, or gutting it?

Solar panels on a roof
wikimedia commons

More Michiganders participated in state's program to generate on-site renewable energy in 2016 compared to 2015.

The Michigan Public Service Commission's annual report on renewable energy found that 427 more electric customers joined the state's Net Metering program.

Consumers Energy

The Michigan Public Service Commission has set new "avoided cost" rates for small, renewable energy companies that provide electricity to Consumers Energy.

The rates compensate the producers for the electricity they provide, which allows Consumers Energy to "avoid" having to produce that amount of energy itself.

The new rates are seen as deeply unfair by some types of renewable energy producers, like hydro and waste-to-energy.

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Huron County is developing a solar energy ordinance after a renewable energy company said it wants to build about a dozen solar farms in the area.

MLive reports California-based Cypress Creek Renewables has been pitching the idea to county residents in the county at the northern tip of Michigan's "Thumb" region.

Solar panels on a roof
wikimedia commons

Solar roof customers are more than paying their share of maintaining the electric grid, according to a new study commissioned for the Institute for Energy Innovation (IEI).

Michigan's new energy law charges the Michigan Public Service Commission with devising a new rate to compensate people with solar roofs when their extra electricity goes onto the grid. 

Courtesy of the University of Chicago

For the first time in history, NASA has named a spacecraft after a living individual. The Solar Probe Plus has been renamed to the Parker Solar Probe in honor of accomplished astrophysicist Eugene Parker. 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Energy costs can be a huge burden on low-income communities.

That’s especially true in Highland Park. The tiny enclave within Detroit was literally left in the dark after it ran up a big street lighting bill.

But there are some small bright spots popping up—thanks to solar power, and the efforts of one community group.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Kalamazoo gets a new solar power facility

Aug 15, 2016
Unsplash / Pixabay

Renewable energy is on the rise as more solar power is being produced in Michigan.

Consumers Energy has opened a solar garden at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

The 1-megawatt power facility will service about 200 people.

Roger Morgenstern  is a spokesperson at Consumers Energy and says customers can join a program to help fund renewable energy.

A workshop of Mayan women learning about solar power.
Courtesy of Appropriate Technology Collaborative

 

The Mayan population in Guatemala is one of the largest indigenous population in the Americas. Yet many of the Mayan families don’t even have basic electricity.

The Appropriate Technology Collaborative is trying to bring light to rural Guatemala. Their Mayan Power and Light Project hopes to empower Mayan women to develop sustainable energy solutions and help them create small businesses. The program teaches Mayan women about solar energy and how to install solar energy panels, along with assistance in business development.

Lansing Board of Water and Light facility
Steve Carmody / MIchigan Radio

Lansing utility officials are weighing a plan that could greatly increase their reliance on alternative energy.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light will soon have to shut down three coal-fired power plants. The plant produce about 80% of the utility’s electricity. 

A panel is recommending BWL replace the electricity from three soon-to-close coal plants with power from wind, solar and natural gas.

Representatives Gary Glenn and Jeff Irwin
Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network

A bipartisan package of bills is being considered by the Michigan Legislature that would subsidize homes, businesses, and churches that generate their own electricity using solar power or other methods of home-grown generation.

The big power-generating companies aren’t happy. They say other ratepayers would end up paying for part of the cost of that renewable energy production.

Representatives Gary Glenn, R-Midland, and Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, are two of the co-sponsors of the package along with Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, and Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan.

Dow Chemical

There’s heated debate over the future of renewable energy policy in Michigan – and it’s not just Democrats versus Republicans.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is criticizing legislation that would put new limits on Michigan’s net metering program. That program allows people with solar panels to sell surplus energy back to the grid.

Craig and Sharon Goble invested $30,000 in their solar array. They say the proposed changes to Michigan's solar program would make their investment less valuable.
David Cassleman / Interlochen Public Radio

More and more people are putting up solar panels in Michigan. It's getting a lot more affordable to do it. And there's a payback when you get your monthly utility bill.

But a bill in the state Senate could fundamentally change the solar program in Michigan, and it has some people worried. 

How "net metering" works in Michigan

Craig and Sharon Goble’s electricity bill looks different than most people’s.  

Jake Neher / MPRN

A bill that would make major changes to Michigan’s solar power laws is getting some pushback.

The legislation deals with a process called net metering. Right now, that allows people with rooftop solar panels to use the power they generate and sell the rest to their utility. Senate Bill 438 would change that.

Consumers Energy launching new solar energy program

Aug 18, 2015
Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy is launching a new program that will let customers invest in renewable energy.

The new community solar program, called Solar Gardens, is the first of its kind for the company, according to Consumers.

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Indiana Michigan Power, an operating unit of American Electric Power, recently started building its first solar power facility in Indiana.

I&M will also be building three other solar power facilities. One will be located in Watervliet, Michigan.

Michael Mazengarb / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The solar power industry is not happy with Republican state lawmakers’ new energy plan.

The bills introduced last month would get rid of the state’s renewable energy standard.

They would also make significant changes to net metering. That allows customers in Michigan to use solar panels or wind turbines on their property to lower their energy bills.

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

DTE Energy is moving forward with a solar power project near Ann Arbor.

Ryan Stanton of The Ann Arbor News reports the project will be visible to motorists traveling the highway. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Lansing Board of Water and Light wants to build Michigan’s largest solar power facility.

BWL officials say they want to contract with companies or organizations to build a solar power facility to generate up to five megawatts of electricity. Altogether the project could potentially be five times bigger than the next largest solar array in the state.

BWL’s proposal is a little vague on specifics, including where a facility would be located.

A utility spokesman says the project could provide enough electricity to power 2500 homes.

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

When we think solar power and solar panels, what comes to mind? 

The sun, of course. So what are the prospects for solar power in areas that tend to be cloudy, snowy, and cold? Places with short days and long nights? Places like Michigan's Upper Peninsula?

Upper Peninsula Second Wave writer Sam Eggleston joins us from Marquette to discuss what might happen when solar power meets the UP.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Courtesy Photo

First up, a Michigan man who’s trying to win millions of dollars with solar power.

He’s trying to put solar panels on as many Michigan homes and businesses as he possibly can.

Prasad Gullapalli’s Novi-based Srinergy wants you to invest in solar panels – for your home, for your business – doesn’t matter. He’s looking for anybody in Michigan to go solar.

He’s making the offer with no upfront costs.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Ann Arbor's historic Michigan Theater is going solar. Or at least its marquee is.

The Ann Arbor News reports that the solar energy installation marks the first renewable energy project by XSeed Energy. The U.S. Department of Energy's Solar America Cities program provided initial funding for XSeed.

The project is expected to generate enough electricity to power the marquee when light-emitting diode lamps are installed. The LEDs will replace incandescent bulbs and should use up to 95 percent less energy.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - More wind and solar energy users in Michigan are getting billing credit for excess power they generate.

State regulators issued a report last week showing utility customers with their own windmills and solar panels onsite increased the net metering program's production size by 55% from 2011 to 2012.

There also were more than 300 additional residential or business customers taking part in the program last year than the year before.

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