RANGER POWER has plans to invest millions into a 239-megawatt solar power project in Shiawassee County. Shown on Tuesday, Oct. 16 are (from left) development manager Sean Harris, SEDP President/CEO Justin Horvath and director of permitting Sergio Trevino.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Ranger Power, a solar power company out of New York, is looking at Shiawassee County to invest $250 million in an enterprise called the Assembly Solar Project, to be located in Venice and Hazelton townships, that will generate roughly $20 to $25 million in property tax revenues over the first 25 years, create approximately 320 construction jobs at the start, add income to landowners and potentially allow Shiawassee County to offer another viable statewide economic draw – encouraging further industrial growth opportunities based on clean energy. The proposed plan would see the construction of a 239-megawatt solar generating facility with that harnessed, clean energy being used by Michigan power companies selling the electricity to consumers.
Unlike some of the components debated with the recent wind turbine proposal, such as the suggested 600-ft. height of the turbines, the safety placement relative to residential property, potential falling debris, the damaging effects of the sound generated, general maintenance, deconstruction after use, migratory bird disturbances and decreased property values – solar power avoids all of these concerns. How? The solar panels will be limited to 16-ft. tall under current Shiawassee County ordinance guidelines, and are constructed in such a way, minus concrete, that the field beneath will remain fallow and healthy for the lifespan of the project. The solar panels offer no sound emissions and are anti-reflective for less visual distraction. After construction, the solar grids are safely fenced and Ranger Power, will oversee maintenance. Sergio Trevino, director of permitting at Ranger Power shared, “I am fairly confident in saying that most residents would drive around just as they normally do and probably never really see the solar panels.”
“Ranger Power is committed to partnering with Shiawassee County to make the Assembly Solar Project a win-win for the entire community,” said Trevino. “We take pride in our focus on community engagement, transparency and responsible solar development.” Solar power is cheaper than any other power source and is estimated to become even cheaper. It generates during the day or during the peak energy time, it is stable, prices do not really fluctuate and it has a low visual and environmental impact. With the infrastructure related to other forms of energy generation, such as coal and nuclear, in decline, solar power is set to move Michigan, particularly Shiawassee County, forward.
The Assembly Solar Project should be a positive boon for Shiawassee County, according to Trevino. Ranger Power places a strong emphasis on a “community-first” approach and has already been working with local landowners to answer questions or deal with concerns. A special use application was filed with Shiawassee County on Tuesday, Oct. 9. During construction, which is estimated to begin in 2019, approximately $16 million in revenue will be spent within the county. The current plan involves developing a 1,200-acre location, primarily fields, into a viable solar energy source.
“This project will pump economic benefits and tax income into Shiawassee County, benefiting schools, small businesses like restaurants and hardware stores, libraries, and fire and police services, as well as roads and bridges,” said Sean Harris, development manager at Ranger Power. Solar power also offers a stable source of income for farmers during seasons when crop prices are low – and after a long lifetime of productivity, when the panels are removed, the farmland can be returned to growing future crops.
According to a press release, “The Assembly Solar Project is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 394,000 tons annually in the short term – equivalent to the yearly emissions of 77,702 cars.”
“We have been pleased with the proactive communications the company has displayed through the development process to date,” stated Justin Horvath, SEDP President/CEO. “With our organization’s mission of growing the local economy, we are encouraged by the interest in solar development.”
Ranger Power, having already been working with potential stakeholders and landowners in the county for 16 months, and having open communications with SEDP (Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership), expressed the value of community input that they will utilize in the project. The next step in the process will be taking the Assembly Solar Project to the Shiawassee County Planning Commission. It is thought construction will be completed in 2020.