Potential for 300-acre solar farm prompts county zoning review
Clinton County revising ordinances to allow for solar farms
BINGHAM TWP. -- The potential for a 300-acre solar farm near St. Johns has spurred Clinton County officials to reevaluate their zoning ordinances.
The county’s planning commission is creating standards for reviewing and permitting solar energy structures, according to Doug Riley, the county’s community development director.
A plan for a 100,000-panel solar farm in Bingham Township — floated to township and county officials in late September — led to the consideration of zoning changes.
“It’s something that more and more communities in Michigan are getting around to,” Riley said. He expects the planning commission will have draft ordinance changes within the next couple months.
Tena Monson, a solar development manager for Geronimo Energy, emailed Riley and Bingham Township Supervisor Jim Ostrowski in late September asking for support for the solar farm project, according to minutes from county board of commissioner meetings. Both the county and township provided letters of support.
The $75 million Bingham Solar Farm would include approximately $5.5 million in local spending during construction, create eight full-time jobs and about 76 construction jobs, according to Monson’s email. The farm would generate 50 megawatts of electricity and about $175,000 a year in personal and real property taxes.
The project’s timeline, as outlined in commission meetings, is 2018 to 2020.
Monson, in an email to the State Journal, said Geronimo’s potential project is in the “preliminary stages of development.” She declined further comment until the project was further into development.
The initial property outlined for the project was land north and south of M-21, near the U.S. 127 interchange and a Consumer’s Energy substation on Steel Road. Ostrowski said he believed a large chunk of the project was planned for land that Meijer Realty has owned for several years.
Riley said he believes the potential location has changed since the county and township signed their letters of support.
“They’re still doing their due diligence, looking at locations in the county in general,” Riley said.
Ostrowski said he has not heard back from the company since its initial request for support.
“We sent a letter to the company that I believe was part of their bid package that we would welcome such a project in the township,” Ostrowski said.
Geronimo’s proposal was prepared in response to a Consumer’s Energy request for proposals for solar farms in lower Michigan, according to an October email from Riley to the board of commissioners.
Terry DeDoes, a spokesman for Consumer’s Energy, said the company is not actively seeking bids for renewable energy projects currently. He added that the company doesn’t comment on pending contracts.
Contact Reporter Beth LeBlanc at 517-377-1167 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LSJBethLeBlanc.