This week Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a historic green energy bill requiring that the state of Michigan have 100% clean energy by 2040. The legislative package sets interim energy standards which must be met, creates a pathway to use farmland for solar fields, and grants the Michigan Public Service Commission the authority to approve large scale renewable energy projects. For individuals seeking to rent their land out for solar or wind power production, this law creates tremendous opportunity.
Typically, a landowner must receive a permit or zoning approval from their local zoning board to use their land for solar or wind energy production. This process usually begins with an application consisting of the request and site plans showing what you intend to do. Then there will be a public hearing before the zoning authority and the authority will issue a recommendation. After this the project will then usually require approval from the city council, or similarly situated legislative body.
With a usual zoning issue the local government is the final authority and if they reject your application the only recourse is through litigation. However, this new law changes the process as it relates to land use applications for solar or wind energy. Under the new law the electric provider can submit its application to the Michigan Public Service Commission if the local government unit fails to timely rule on the application, the local government denies the application so long as the application meets the standards set out in the law, or the local government changes its zoning ordinance in response to the application.
This new wrinkle in the application process appears to provide for an easier path to approval for landowners and energy companies seeking to build solar or wind energy fields. That being said there are the law contains a host of detailed requirements which must be complied with in both the application submitted and during the application process. These include detailed studies on the proposed site plan, public meetings, and environmental studies that must be conducted.
Due to the demands placed on the applicant by both the local application process and the alternate state application, a landowner interested in placing solar or wind fields on their land should consult with a land use attorney as early in the process as possible. They will be able to ensure your application complies with all the statutory requires, help you avoid common pitfalls in the process, and, if necessary, involving an attorney from the start of the process ensures that if you are forced into litigation the attorney has a full understanding of your situation.
The attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC are highly experienced in all aspects of land use, including solar and wind development projects, and are here to help guide you through any and all legal complexities to help achieve your goals.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us and we would be happy to speak with you.
This blog was authored by a post bar law clerk, not an attorney. While we strive to provide informative content, this post should not be considered legal advice.