Solar talks heat up in Michigan’s Thumb

This “solar farm” in Wells Township is a partnership between Thumb Electric Co-op and DTE Energy Co. Currently, it’s the only commercial solar project in Tuscola County, but that could change soon. (Photo by John Cook)
This “solar farm” in Wells Township is a partnership between Thumb Electric Co-op and DTE Energy Co. Currently, it’s the only commercial solar project in Tuscola County, but that could change soon. (Photo by John Cook)

Talks of solar farms in Tuscola County are heating up, driven by at least one company looking to mine sun in the area.

Solar energy, in fact, is a topic of conversation just about everywhere locally, from a recent regular meeting of county clerks and Fremont Township planning commission, to Monday’s meeting of the Tuscola County board of commissioners’ meeting of the whole.

Officials from Tuscola County’s Dayton, Denmark, Almer, Fremont, Ellington, Fairgrove, and Gilford townships are among those to confirm awareness that the area is in the sights of a solar power company or companies. Similar reports also are coming out of Huron and Sanilac counties.

The interest is serious enough to have officials in Tuscola County considering, among other things, moratoriums so local laws can catch up with the technology.

“Since we have to investigate it, we are looking to impose a moratorium on solar energy development in Denmark Township,” said Chuck Heinlein, supervisor, Denmark Township.

“We don’t currently have an ordinance in place, but we’re planning to have one soon,” said Jim Mantey, supervisor, Almer Township. “We may protect the township with an interim moratorium until we can put a responsible ordinance in place.”

“We had an inquiry from a developer a few months ago,” said John McQuillan, treasurer, Fairgrove Township. He said the township’s engineering firm, Spicer Group Inc. of Saginaw, is addressing solar power in the township’s new zoning ordinance, with plans to have a draft by this summer.

Lyle Fryers, zoning administrator and member of the planning commission in Fremont Township, said he has been “in conversations” with a company that wants to build a “solar farm” in Fremont Township and is seeking at least 30 acres to make the project viable.

At least one company — Santa Monica, California-based Cypress Creek Renewables, which bills itself as “the nation’s fastest-growing solar farm developer” — is confirmed by several sources to be trying to secure leases with area landowners throughout the Thumb region. (Read more)

(This story originally appeared in the Jan. 25, 2017 print edition of The Tuscola County Advertiser and can be read online in its entirety here.)

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