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Caledonia Twp. targeted for solar development | Proposal would create 26.8 megawatts

Farmland along Lyons Road in Caledonia Township could be the site of a new solar energy development if plans are approved. Argus-Press Photo/Brad Minor

CALEDONIA TWP. — The county soon could see a second large-scale solar project.

The $30-million Lyons Road Solar Project is proposed to produce 26.8 megawatts of electricity when complete, which could power up to 26,000 homes. Lake Mary, Florida-based Renergetica hopes to build the project on leased property from two different landowners.

Caledonia Township Supervisor Ed Bruckman said the project is still in the early stages of development. Township officials conducted a meeting in March to take input on the project and will host another in May.

According to Justin Vandenbroeck the Vice President of Development at Renergetica, the new solar project in Caledonia Township is expected to create 100 to 150 construction jobs for a project that will take about nine months to complete. He also said these solar projects will generate more than $300,000 in new property taxes and operate for at least 35 years.

Vandenbroeck said his company chose Michigan primarily because of Consumers Energy’s plan to incorporate 5 gigawatts of solar energy into its grid in the next 10 years. It would take 200 solar farms size to meet that goal. The proposed project will be split between two sites that send power into the same Consumers Energy substation located along Monroe Road.

Both sites are located in an area southwest of Corunna.

The first, near the corner of Cornell Road and Ridgeview Drive, is 20 acres and could hold 8,064 solar panels. It will generate 2.8 megawatts of electricity at peak performance. The second site off Lyons Road is expected to be 210 acres and include 72,000 solar panels. The site will generate 24 megawatts at peak performance.

“I personally would rather see a solar farm then wind turbines,” Bruckman said.

He explained the company is willing to plant screening trees around the solar farm to reduce visibility, which is a common complaint regarding wind turbines. He also said he prefers the solar farm because of how easy it would be to remove panels and return the land back to its natural state. One condition for approval of the project is that the company have a plan in place to decommission and remove the solar farm. If the solar panels are not in use for 12 consecutive months they must be removed and the soil and the vegetation restored.

This isn’t the first-large scale solar project coming to the area.

In January the Shiawassee County Planning Commission approved a special use permit for Assembly Solar Project. New York-based Ranger Power is behind the $250-million solar farms in Hazelton and Venice townships. The county dealt with the Ranger project because it oversees zoning in Hazelton and Venice townships. Caledonia Township handles its own zoning. During the time that project was being debated by at the county level, Ranger Power said, “the project will generate a $3.2 million increase in household earnings through the creation of more than 300 jobs during construction, with approximately $16 million in construction dollars being spent in Shiawassee County.”

“We’ve seen a lot of interest in Shiawassee County from solar developers, especially in the last two years,” said Brent Jones, vice president of the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership.

He explained there are two main reasons why Shiawassee County is positioned well for solar farms. First, the county has plenty of open, flat land available. Secondly, Shiawassee County is located in the middle of several large population centers, including Lansing and Flint. One of the largest costs of solar is moving the energy once it has been captured. The Shiawassee county location makes generating and transferring the solar energy economically viable. One concern with large-scale solar farms is the amount of runoff they create can create problems. Officials said Caledonia Township’s zoning ordinance addresses that issue saying, “the installation of any solar panel (on-site or commercial) shall not negatively impact adjacent properties with additional or excessive stormwater runoff and/or drainage.”

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