THE 35TH ANNUAL FARM CITY DINNER took place in the Memorial Healthcare auditorium on Tuesday evening, April 9.

   Nikki Hersh, 4-H program coordinator, offered the welcome. Kiwanis Club of Owosso President Bill Pearsall spoke briefly, followed by SRCC President/CEO Jeff Deason who introduced Sean Harris, the guest speaker for the evening. Harris is the senior development manager for Ranger Power.

   This fundraising event is organized through the Kiwanis/Farm City Committee and Shiawassee County Farm Bureau, with proceeds going toward an annual agricultural scholarship. The winner of the 2018 scholarship was Kaddi Gewirtz from Perry High School. Co-sponsors for the event include Shiawassee MSU Extension Service, the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau Promotion and Education Committee, Kiwanis of Owosso and the Shiawassee-Owosso Kiwanis Club.

   The long-time event was well attended by several county commissioners, including Marlene Webster, John Plowman and Gary Holzhausen. Shiawassee County Clerk Caroline Wilson, Owosso Mayor Chris Eveleth, SEDP President/CEO Justin Horvath and numerous community leaders/members were in attendance, as well.

(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)


by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor

   Ranger Power’s plans for the Assembly Solar Project in Shiawassee County, first introduced in October 2018, was the featured subject of the 35th Annual Farm City Dinner on Tuesday, April 9. The guest speaker was Sean Harris, development manager for Ranger Power. The plan includes the installation of solar panels on 1,200 acres in Hazelton/Venice townships. In January, the Shiawassee County Planning Commission voted 5 to 0 to approve the request from Ranger Power. One planning commission member had recused themselves from the vote.

   The proposed plan, a $250 million investment, would see the construction of a 239-megawatt solar generating facility – harnessing clean energy to be used by Michigan power companies who would then sell the electricity to consumers.

   Harris shared that Ranger Power is currently invested in six different mid-west states with a little over 20 projects in total, and that they are in competition with both coal and nuclear. The project development process entails four areas including transmission, land, permits and offtake. Offtake involves evaluating utility needs, engaging utilities, submitting proposals and then, finally, securing the contract. Under these guidelines, the plan involves beginning construction later this year with a commercial operation completion date late in 2020.

   Why Michigan for solar? According to Harris, “It is a cheap form of energy. There aren’t any fuel costs. The sun is free. There is no volatility in the price, either, so it is very attractive to large power buyers. It is also most efficient when energy demand is highest during peak times of the day.”

   Toward the end of the presentation, attendees asked for further information from Harris about the Assembly Solar Project. One person questioned how snow cover factored in to solar energy. Harris answered that the solar panels shed snow very quickly because they are a dark surface. Plus, with the built-in tilting mechanism of the panels, the snow tends to slide off. Another individual wanted to know how the panels would eventually be disposed off at the end of the project life – currently proposed to be 25 years in Shiawassee County. Harris explained that the panels would be recycled since they are composed of aluminum, glass and silicate. There are no harmful chemicals in the new solar panels. “As far as the life of the panels, they degrade very slowly. After even forty years, the panels are still 90 percent efficient,” Harris said. A third question was regarding the proposal to allow herd grazing around the solar panels, since the current plan allows for the growth of vegetation. “We would like to make this as much of a dual purpose as possible,” shared Harris, mentioning that early research suggests sheep would be “panel-friendly.”

   Justin Horvath from SEDP brought up the height concern related to the wind turbine projects that had been suggested for Shiawassee County. The max height allowed by the county solar ordinance allows for 16 feet, but the Solar Assembly panels should fall in the range of seven to nine feet tall.

Ranger Power Talks Solar Power at 35th Annual Farm City Dinner was last modified: April 19th, 2019 by Karen Elford