The Michigan Public Service Commission has given the green light to a case settlement between Consumers Energy and independent solar companies that could dramatically increase solar power in Michigan.
Michigan currently has about 167 megawatts of capacity from solar, which is not a whole lot. Consumers Energy has agreed to buy 584 megawatts of additional solar from independent companies over the next four years.
Noah Hyte is with Cypress Creek Renewables, one of the companies party to the agreement. He says there's enough sun in Michigan to make it worthwhile to build lots of solar here.
"We have solar plants throughout the northeast that aren't necessarily known for 300 days of sunshine a year," says Hyte. "And we're still able to produce power at a viable rate that's competitive within the market."
Hyte says the cost of solar plant construction is about a third to a quarter of the cost it was just ten years ago. Some of Cypress Creek Renewable's projects in Michigan are close to shovel-ready, he says, with the land already secured and local zoning changes made.
"Long term, this will serve as a precedent to create a solar market, both a jobs market and a construction market, but also an overall power market for solar, in the state of Michigan," says Hyte.
Consumers Energy has made a commitment to add about 5,000 megawatts of solar by 2040, both utility-owned and independent-company owned. That's in addition to this agreement.
Editor's note: Consumers Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.