Check out Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for top-notch community solar!

By Oliver Townsend May 23, 2024
Want to See Community Solar Done Right? A Project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Can Serve as a Model.jpegOrginal image from: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23052024/inside-clean-energy-michigan-upper-peninsula-community-solar/

Community solar projects are becoming increasingly popular as a way to make renewable energy more accessible and affordable for a wider range of households. One project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is setting a great example of how community solar can be done right. Let’s take a closer look at the solar array near L’Anse, Michigan, and how it is demonstrating the potential of community solar.

The Success of the L’Anse Community Solar Project

The solar array near L’Anse consists of 340 panels with a generating capacity of about 110 kilowatts. This project serves around 50 households and organizations that have subscribed to receive power from the array. Despite its relatively small size, the project has been a resounding success in meeting both its financial and social goals.

A Model for Equitable Community Solar Development

Karl Hoesch, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan and lead author of a recent paper on the project, believes that the setup in L’Anse can serve as a model for equitable community solar development. The village government, in collaboration with universities, government offices, and nonprofits, spearheaded the project to address local energy needs.

One of the key factors contributing to the project’s success was a $140,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, which subsidized subscriptions for 25 low-to-moderate income households. This financial support helped make the project financially viable and inclusive.

Benefits for Subscribers and the Community

Subscribers to the community solar project reported a decrease of approximately $300 per year in their electricity bills, reducing financial stress and improving energy affordability. The utility also saw a reduction in late payments from households benefiting from the project. This demonstrates the tangible benefits of community solar for both subscribers and the broader community.

Despite challenges such as the lack of a state-level community solar program in Michigan and the region’s limited sunlight compared to other parts of the country, the L’Anse project has shown that with community involvement, strategic funding, and a clear vision, community solar can thrive.

Replicating Success and Expanding Community Solar

Building on Lessons Learned

Hoesch views the L’Anse project as a replicable model for other small towns interested in developing community solar projects. By emphasizing community engagement, securing adequate funding, and focusing on the social and financial benefits for all participants, similar projects can succeed even in challenging environments.

The Future of Community Solar

With the availability of funding through initiatives like the Inflation Reduction Act’s Solar for All program, more cities and towns are exploring community solar as a way to promote renewable energy, enhance energy equity, and reduce carbon emissions. The success of projects like the one in L’Anse offers hope for a future where community solar plays a significant role in the transition to clean energy.

Community solar projects like the one in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are showcasing the potential of renewable energy to benefit communities and individuals alike. By learning from successful models and embracing the principles of equity, collaboration, and innovation, more communities can harness the power of the sun to create a cleaner, more sustainable future.

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