Lansing BWL to build Michigan’s largest solar array

Proposed 186-acre project expected to generate 20 megawatts, enough to power at least 3,500 homes.

LANSING – The Board of Water & Light has plans to install the largest solar array in Michigan as part of the expansion of its renewable energy portfolio, General Manager Dick Peffley told the Lansing State Journal.

Peffley said the proposed 186-acre array of solar panels will be “the largest solar array the state has ever seen” and would be installed in Delta Township near General Motors’ assembly plant. Peffley expects BWL to reveal details in a formal announcement “within weeks.”  The solar project would generate 20 megawatts, enough to power at least 3,500 homes, said George Stojic, BWL’s executive director of planning and development.

The solar project, could be approved by the Delta Township Board at its 6 p.m. meeting today. Peffley said the project would be paid for by a “small” surcharge BWL already is collecting from the city-owned utility’s ratepayers and could begin construction in the fall. The township board’s meeting will be held at the Delta Administration Building, 7710 W. Saginaw Hwy., and is open to the public.

“For the size of the Board of Water & Light and for what we’re doing, this is something the ratepayers of Lansing can be proud of,” Peffley said of the project.

An agenda item for the meeting posted on Delta Township’s website shows the Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve a special land use permitrequested by a company called “Delta Solar Power I, LLC (aka groSolar)” for the establishment of solar farms. Peffley confirmed Monday that BWL is working with groSolar on the project. A Planning Commission memo dated Nov. 24, said the project would create “Major Essential Service Facilities (Solar Energy Farms)” on two parcels of land.

A representative from groSolar told the Lansing State Journal in March it wanted to find a Lansing area location or multiple locations in BWL’s service area for a solar energy project.

“We think solar has substantial potential in Michigan,” said Steve Remen, groSolar’s executive vice president, in a March 15 interview. “It’s a form of power generation that virtually has no environmental impact.” Messages left for Remen today have not yet been returned.

One of the parcels for the Delta Solar Power project, according to the planning commission memo, is currently the 189-acre site of Sundance Riding Stables, 9250 Nixon Road. The parcel is bounded by Sundance Highway, Guinea Road and Nixon Road. Another parcel for the proposed project is 102 acres. The memo states it is 1,400 feet south of Sundance Highway and 500 feet north of Davis Highway.

Peffley said GM officials want the solar project BWL proposes near their Delta Plant so it can compliment the Energy Star-certified facility. GM’s Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant, at 8175 Millett Hwy., opened in 2006 and is the automaker’s newest plant in North America. It produces the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.

“This is huge and it’s a good deal for our customers,” Peffley said of the project, which has GM support.

The Detroit Free Press reported in September that DTE said its 9.37-acre project at Domino’s Farms in Ann Arbor Township is the state’s largest solar array. The project, generating 1.1 megawatts, opened on Aug. 25 and reportedly generates power for up to 200 homes.

BWL already owns the Cedar Street Solar Array across from the its John F. Dye Water Conditioning Plant. The Cedar solar project has 824 panels with a generating capacity of 150 kilowatts. This array offsets 250 tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to the utility’s website.

The utility’s REO Town Headquarters and Cogeneration Plant has 50 solar panels with generating capacity of 13.5 kilowatts. A megawatt is one million watts and a kilowatt is one thousand watts.

Peffley said the new solar project in Delta Township is “a spinoff” of BWL’s community solar program. The BWL announced in October plans to build a community solar park at East Lansing’s Burcham Park. Another solar park is planned near the utility’s Wise Road Water Treatment Plant in Lansing. Those sites are expected to produce 300 kilowatts of power each.

All BWL residential and commercial electric customers are eligible to participate in its community solar program by leasing 300-watt solar panels for $399 each for 25 years. In return, customers would receive credit on their utility bills for the solar power their leased panels produce.