Solar power in Michigan

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Red-tailed hawk at University of Michigan NCRC solar array

Solar power in Michigan has been growing in recent years due to new technological improvements and a variety of regulatory actions and financial incentives, particularly a 30% federal tax credit, available for any size project. Although among the lowest U.S. states for solar irradiance, Michigan mostly lies farther south than Germany where solar power is heavily deployed. Michigan is expected to use 120 TWh per year in 2030. To reach a 100% solar electrical grid would require 2.4% of Michigan's land area to host 108 GW of installed capacity.[1]

Michigan had over 167 MW of solar capacity in 2019.[2][3][4] According to the Michigan Public Service Commission, the state had an estimated 27 MW of solar capacity as of the end of 2014, counting utility and distributed generation.[5]

Solar farms and arrays[edit]

In July 2012, Michigan's largest rooftop array, 977.6 kW, was installed in Canton on the IKEA store.[6] Ford Motor Company and DTE Energy built the largest solar plant in the state, a 1.04 MW solar car port at Ford's world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan in 2015.[7][8] In 2015, DTE built a 1.1 MW solar farm at Domino's Farms near Ann Arbor, slightly larger than the Ford carport.[9] The IKEA store announced an expansion of its existing array in 2015 to bring it to 1.2 MW.[10] A 1.95 MW solar farm at DTE's Greenwood Energy Center near St. Clair came online in January 2016.[11] Indiana Michigan Power, in November 2016, opened a 4.6 MW solar farm near Watervliet.[12][13] In May 2017, DTE brought online two solar farms in Lapeer County: a 28.4 MW farm and a 19.6 MW solar farm.[14] These are the first large utility-scale solar farms in the state, with the larger covering 200 acres of land and the smaller one covering 100 acres.[15] In July 2017, DTE completed a 2MW solar farm built in a closed city park in Detroit.[16]

The 24 MW Delta solar farm opened in two phases in 2018, supplying power for the Lansing Board of Water and Light.[17][18] Michigan State University built the largest solar car port project in North America, that covers 5000 parking spaces and has a total of 15 MW(DC) of power, completed in December 2017.[19][20]

A 1.3 MW solar farm was built by American Municipal Power at a brownfield site in Coldwater and came online in February 2018.[21][22]

Fort Custer began construction in May 2015 of a 0.25 MW solar farm with plans for a second 0.3 MW farm later.[23] This is part of the U.S. military's renewable energy goals of 25% renewables by 2025. In 2017, a project was announced for Fort Custer that would be a microgrid consisting of a 1.375 MW diesel system, 0.720 MW solar PV array, and a 0.400 MW energy storage system.[24] Camp Grayling has a small 0.02 MW installation on one building roof while Selfridge Air National Guard Base had no solar power by 2014.

Solar with battery storage[edit]

"Circuit West" is a thirteen-block microgrid test in Grand Rapids. It contains a 0.65MW array of 1,800 panels on the roofs of three buildings and a 500kW-hr battery.[25]

Community solar[edit]

In 2015, several community solar projects were proposed. Consumers Power built a 3 MW solar farm at Grand Valley State University, completed April 2016, which became the largest solar farm in Michigan.[26] Consumers Power also built a 1 MW community solar project at Western Michigan University, completed in August 2016.[27][28] Spartan Solar, a 1.2 MW installation in Cadillac, was built by Wolverine Power Cooperative in fall 2016, the largest solar plant in Northern Michigan.[29] A 0.3 MW community solar farm in East Lansing opened in January 2019 for Lansing Board of Water and Light.[30][31] Escanaba approved a 1MW partly community solar installation near Delta County Airport to be online in 2018[32]

Proposed and under construction[edit]

Flushing Schools is building a 1.1MW system spread over the roofs of seven school buildings, expected to be completed in 2018.[33] A 125 MW solar farm near Muskegon set to begin construction in 2019 would be the largest in the state.[34] The proposed 239MW Assembly Solar Project would be located in Shiawassee County and would be constructed in 2019 and online in 2020.[35] Ranger Power’s 100MW River Fork solar farm would be built in Sheridan Township, Calhoun County solar farm by 2020 or 2021 and has an agreement with Consumers Energy.[36]

Distributed solar[edit]

Distributed solar is not widely used in Michigan with 2,289 installations totally 17,000 kW, providing 0.02% of the state's electricity, as of 2015.[37]

Large-scale solar plans[edit]

Despite having only reached 100 megawatts of installation statewide by 2018, thousands of megawatts have been proposed or included in planning documents. In response to DTE Energy filing a proposal for 2023 which included a 1.1GW natural gas plant with almost no new solar installations, renewable energy advocates proposed a plan with 1,100 megawatts of new solar capacity, 1,100 megawatts of wind, and 253 megawatts of demand response which they claimed would satisfy criteria at a lower cost.[38] The state panel backed the DTE proposal in April 2018.

In 2017, Cypress Creek Renewables announced plans to build 2,600MW of solar plants in Michigan but has received no contracts from the 2 major power companies.[39] Cypress Creek has filed complaints, in 2018, against DTE and Consumers Power for failing to comply with the PURPA law.[40] In August 2019, Consumers Power proposed to allow 584 MW to connect to the grid by September 2023. The is almost four times the entire state total for solar power at the time of the proposal. They also propose accepting as much as 3000 MW to be connected to the grid at a lower purchase price per kilowatt hour over a longer timeframe. The proposal would need approval from the state electrical rate board.[41] In September 2019, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved the settlement.[2]

In June 2018, Consumers Power announced a plan detailing changes from now until 2040 that would see it close all coal plants, use only natural gas for 10% of current needs and have the majority of its power supplied by solar. This would require building 6,200MW of solar as well as using 450MW of battery storage.[42]

In September 2019, DTE Energy announced it was seeking bids for 25 to 200 megawatts of electricity from solar projects to be online between 2021 and 2023.[43]

Solar industry[edit]

Michigan was ranked 14th among U.S. states for solar jobs in 2013.[44]

In 2002, Stanford R. Ovshinsky built a factory in Auburn Hills, Michigan to build low cost Uni-Solar panels using amorphous semiconductors that generate power in diffuse light.[45] Uni-Solar became the second largest manufacturer of thin film solar cells, after First Solar, and a developer of solar shingles before going bankrupt in 2012.[46][47]

Suniva opened a solar panel factory in Saginaw, Michigan in 2014, capable of producing 200MW of panels per year.[48] Suniva closed its Michigan plant in March 2017 and later filed for bankruptcy.

Government policy[edit]

The Government of Michigan has taken a variety of actions in order to encourage solar energy use within the state. In 2018, a bill passed the state house to give solar installations a property tax exemption. On Nov 20, 2019 Governor Whitmer signed legislation exempting rooftop solar & alternative energy systems up to 150 Kw from property tax assesment.

Net metering[edit]

The state had a net metering program that allows installations of up to 20 kW of on-site electrical generation to continuously roll over any excess generation to the next month. Participation is limited to 0.75% of utilities peak demand the prior year.[49] Peak demand for the state for 2011 was 21,477 MW.[50]

In 2018, the net metering program was ended (with those already enrolled getting a 10-year grandfather term). The new inflow/outflow system will require new customers to pay full price for all electricity going in and receiving a credit based on avoided cost to the utility for electricity going out to the grid. Each utility will have to set this price in its rate case which must be approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. Bills were introduced into the state house within weeks to alter this system as favoring large utilities over solar owners.[51] Co-op electrical providers are not covered by the same rules but some moved to alter their rates after the state board's ruling.

Renewable portfolio standard[edit]

The state adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in 2008 which required that 10% of Michigan's electricity come from renewable resources by 2015.[52] This standard was met mostly by wind power. A program to add 2 MW of distributed solar by Consumers Energy customers was reached in two weeks, and the state directed the company to offer another 2 MW at a cost not to exceed $20 million.[53]

In December 2016, a new energy policy was adopted which calls for 12.5% renewable power by 2019 and 15% by 2021. It further calls for power suppliers to "obtain at least 35% of the State’s electric needs through energy waste reduction and renewable energy by 2025."[54]

Before the 2018 election, a referendum calling for "30% by 2030" was circulating. In response, DTE and Consumers Power promised at least 50% consisting of 25% actual renewables and 25% efficiency and demand reduction.[55] The referendum's backers including Tom Steyer then stopped its campaign.[56]

Installed capacity[edit]

Michigan Grid-Connected PV Capacity (MW)[5][57][58][59][60][61][62][63]
Year Capacity Change % Change
2007 0.4
2008 0.4
2009 0.7 0.3 75%
2010 2.6 1.9 271%
2011 8.8 6.2 238%
2012 19.9 11.1 126%
2013 22.6 2.7 14%
2014 27.2 4.6 20%
2015 NA NA
2016 37.5
2017 113.5 76 203%
2018 153 40 35%

Largest systems[edit]

Systems of 0.5 MW and larger

Name Location Size (MW) Notes
DeMille Solar Farm Lapeer County 28.4 DTE
Delta Solar I and II Eaton County 24 Lansing Board of Water & Light
Turrill Solar Farm Lapeer County 19.6 DTE
Spartan PV 1 East Lansing 10.5 Michigan State University carports
Watervliet Watervliet 4.6 Indiana Michigan Power
Solar Garden 1 Grand Valley State University 3.00 Consumers Energy, community solar[64]
O'Shea Solar Farm Detroit 2.0 DTE Energy
Greenwood Energy Center Avoca 1.95 DTE Energy[65]
Canton IKEA Canton 1.22

[66] [67]

Coldwater Solar Coldwater 1.20 American Municipal Power[68]
Spartan Solar Cadillac 1.20 Wolverine Power, community solar[69]
Stateline Farms Solar Morenci 1.2 1.0 MWAC, Wolverine Power Cooperative[70]
Gerken Paving Solar Lenawee 1.2 1.0 MWAC, Wolverine Power Cooperative[70]
Harvest Solar Lenawee Lenawee 1.2 1.0 MWAC, Wolverine Power Cooperative[70]
Domino's Farms Ann Arbor 1.08 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
Ford World Headquarters Dearborn 1.04 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
M-72 Solar Project Traverse City 1.0 Traverse City Light & Power [71]
Western Michigan University Kalamazoo 1.0 Consumer Energy Solar Gardens program
GM Warren Transmission Warren 0.9 DTE Energy SolarCurrents[72]
Highland Cemetery Ypsilanti 0.84 [73]
McPhail Wixom 0.82 DTE Energy SolarCurrents[74]
Romulus Solar Romulus 0.75 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
University of Michigan Ann Arbor 0.67 DTE Energy SolarCurrents, 2 locations[75]
Thumb Solar Caro 0.66 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
Circuit West Grand Rapids 0.65 Consumers Power, with 500kW-hr battery
Heliotek Holland 0.525 [76]
GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Hamtramck 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents[77]
Ford Michigan Assembly Wayne 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
Hartland Schools Hartland 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
Liepprandt Orchard Pigeon 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents[78]
Monroe County Community College Monroe 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
Indian Springs Metropark White Lake 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
Riopelle Farms Harbor Beach 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
St. Clair RESA Marysville 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monroe 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
Brownstown Solar Taylor 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents
Wil Le Farms Bad Axe 0.5 DTE Energy SolarCurrents

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michigan Renewable Resource Assessment, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation for Michigan Public Service Commission, April 2015
  2. ^ a b Michigan poised to nearly quadruple its solar power capacity, Michigan Radio, Tracy Samilton, September 13, 2019
  3. ^ Table 6.3. New Utility Scale Generating Units by Operating Company, Plant, and Month, 2016, Electric Power Monthly, U.S. Energy Information Administration, August 24, 2016
  4. ^ Michigan Solar, Solar Energy Industrues Association, accessed September 11, 2017
  5. ^ a b Net Metering & Solar Program Report For Calendar Year 2014, Michigan Public Service Commission, August 2015 pg. 13
  6. ^ "Mich.'s Largest Solar Array Plugged In Atop IKEA". Engineering News-Record.
  7. ^ DTE plans big solar power project with Domino's Farms in Ann Arbor Township, Crain's Business Detroit, Jay, Greene, May 15, 2015
  8. ^ Ford, DTE Energy to build Michigan's largest solar array, DTE, Aug 14, 2014
  9. ^ Michigan's largest solar panel installation taking shape outside Ann Arbor,, Ryan Stanton, May 14, 2015
  10. ^ IKEA to Increase Size of Michigan's Largest Rooftop Solar Array by Approximately 25% Atop Detroit-Area Store in Canton, MI, Business Wire, December 03, 2014
  11. ^ Solar power projects heat up across Michigan, Capital News Service, Colleen Otte, December 4, 2015
  12. ^ Indiana Michigan Power Planning Solar Power Facility Near Watervliet, WSJM, January 5, 2016
  13. ^ Indiana Michigan Power Watervliet solar plant goes online, pvtech, Danielle Ola, November 14, 2016
  14. ^ DTE Energy announces biggest solar project yet, Michigan Radio, Sarah Cwiek, December 21, 2015
  15. ^ DTE Energy building two solar sites planned to be largest in Michigan,, Dominic Adams, December 21, 2015
  16. ^ DTE Building 2 MW Solar Project On Blighted Land In Detroit, Solar Industry, March 30, 2016
  17. ^ BWL Starts Construction on Delta Township Solar Array, Kevin Lavery, WKAR, Aug 29, 2017
  18. ^ Solar power plant holds ribbon cutting in Grand Ledge, WILX
  19. ^ MSU trustees approve largest solar array in Michigan, Detroit Free Press, from Lansing State Journal, RJ Wolcott, September 11, 2015
  20. ^ Alterra Power Announces Amendment of Power Purchase Agreement for Michigan Solar Project, CNW Group, Dec 22, 2016
  21. ^ Six years late, work starts on solar farm, The Daily Reporter, August 28, 2017
  22. ^ Solar farm could begin construction in August, The Daily Reporter, July 17, 2015
  23. ^ More than 700 solar panels installed at Fort Custer Training Center, mlive, May 15, 2015
  24. ^ Eaton To Assist U.S. Department Of Defense Microgrid Demo Project, Solar Industry, Joseph Bebon, April 5, 2017
  25. ^ Consumers Energy Dedicates First Ever Solar, Battery Storage Systems on Grand Rapids' West Side, January 24, 2019
  26. ^ Ground broken for solar farm near GVSU campus, WZZM, October 2, 2015
  27. ^ Consumers Energy builds solar power plant in WMU business park, mlive, August 15, 2016
  28. ^ Solar Gardens, Consumers Energy, accessed April 29, 2016
  29. ^ Wolverine to Add Largest Solar Array in Northern Michigan, PRNewswire, September 27, 2016
  30. ^ New solar park in East Lansing goes on line, Ken Palmer, Lansing State Journal, January 23, 2019
  31. ^ Community Solar Parks to be Developed in Cities of East Lansing and Lansing, FOX 47 News, November 3, 2015
  32. ^ Solar farm becoming a reality in Escanaba, TV6 FoxUP, May 28, 2018
  33. ^ It Starts With The Kids: Michigan Schools Part Of Trend To Save $$ With Solar Project, Clean Technica, Carolyn Fortuna, March 31, 2018
  34. ^ Two large-scale renewable energy projects planned in West Michigan, mibiz, 15 September 2018
  35. ^ Proposed Shiawassee solar farm would cover 1,200 acres in two townships,, October 16, 2018
  36. ^ Southern Michigan solar farm inks power deal with Consumers Energy,, September 10, 2019
  37. ^ Net Metering & Solar Program Report For Calendar Year 2015, Michigan Public Service Commission, September 2016
  38. ^ Solar Industry Tries to Stop a New 1.1GW Gas Plant in Michigan, gtm, Julian Spector January 18, 2018
  39. ^ Energy developers unclear of role as Consumers plans major shift toward solar, mibiz, Andy Balaskovitz, 7 July 2018
  40. ^ Solar firms complain to state over DTE's refusal to strike power contracts, Crain's Business Detroit, Jsy Greene, April 20, 2018
  41. ^ Consumers Energy proposes settlement for solar developers in Michigan, Crain's Business Detroit, Jay Greene, August 13, 2019
  42. ^ Consumers Energy reveals details of solar deployment in IRP, pv magazine usa, John Weaver, June 21, 2018
  43. ^ DTE to request bids for solar and wind projects, Evan James Carter, The Detroit News, Septenber 16, 2019
  44. ^ State Solar Jobs, the Solar Foundation
  45. ^ "Functionality of the UNI-SOLAR® PV Cells".
  46. ^ "Solar Ideas & Information for Homeowners - Modernize". Modernize.
  47. ^ UNI-SOLAR Brand Debuts First Ever, UL-Approved, Standard-Production Residential Solar Module Roof Shingle
  48. ^ Suniva Starts Construction on 200 MW Solar Factory in Michigan, CleanTechnica, Zachary Shahan, August 15, 2014
  49. ^ "Michigan - Net Metering". Retrieved 2012-05-23.
  50. ^ Semiannual Projections of Energy Supply and Demand Winter Outlook 2011- 2012 Archived 2012-05-26 at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^ Michigan solar owners hit with 'unfair rates' under ruling, reps say, mlive, April 24, 2018
  52. ^ "Renewable Energy Standard". 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2012-05-23.
  53. ^ "Michigan PSC Directs Consumers Energy to Expand Solar Program".
  54. ^ Michigan Calls For 15% Renewable Electricity By 2021, CleanTechnica, Roy L Hales, December 19, 2016
  55. ^ DTE, Consumers pledge 50% clean energy, heading off ballot initiative , Utility Dive, May 21, 2018
  56. ^ Michigan utilities concede to 25% renewable energy by 2030, pv magazine, Christian Roselund, May 21, 2018
  57. ^ Sherwood, Larry (August 2012). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2011" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). p. 16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  58. ^ Sherwood, Larry (June 2011). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2010" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). p. 20. Retrieved 2011-06-29.
  59. ^ Sherwood, Larry (July 2010). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2009" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). p. 23. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-09-25. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  60. ^ Sherwood, Larry (July 2009). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2008" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). p. 16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-11-23. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
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  62. ^ Sherwood, Larry (July 2014). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2013" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Retrieved 2014-09-26.
  63. ^ 2013 Michigan Installed Solar PV pg. 15
  64. ^ Consumers Energy Starts Operating First Community Solar Power Plant at Grand Valley State University, Consumers Energy, April 18, 2016
  65. ^ DTE Energy opens solar energy facilities in three Michigan communities, PRNewswire, Feb. 4, 2016
  66. ^ IKEA to increase size of Michigan's largest rooftop solar array by approximately 25% atop Detroit-area store in Canton, MI, IKEA Corporate News, December 3, 2014
  67. ^ Michigan's Largest Solar Array Now Plugged In Atop IKEA Canton, CBS Detroit, July 10, 2012
  68. ^ News, Spartan Solar, January 19, 2017
  69. ^ Solar farm operating, The Daily Reporter, January 6, 2018
  70. ^ a b c Harvest Energy Solutions provides 3 MWac of solar to Michigan utility, Solar Power World, Billy Ludt, December 27, 2018
  71. ^ M72 Solar Project
  72. ^ DTE opens solar array at GM facility in Warren, Crain's Business Detroit, October 28, 2016
  73. ^ Highland Cemetery, SolarYpsi
  74. ^ DTE is busy growing solar panel field beside I-96, DetroitFree Press, March 10, 2014
  75. ^ "DTE Energy - Project Map". DTE Energy.
  76. ^ Peter Venlet. "HelioTek, LLC - Holland, MI - Home".
  77. ^ DTE Energy SolarCurrents Utility-Owned Program Aggregate Output, accessed July 11, 2012
  78. ^ "DTE Energy - Project Map". DTE Energy.

External links[edit]