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Michigan May Become Friendlier for Solar and Wind Energy

Michigan, like many other states, is moving toward more renewable and “clean” sources of energy. In fact, the Michigan legislature has proposed a goal requiring 100% clean energy production by the year 2035. However, if this goal becomes law, Michigan is far behind a pace to meet the proposed timeline.

While there is debate over what should be considered a “clean” or “renewable” energy source, the chief sources are wind and solar power. Under Michigan law, a new solar or wind energy development must satisfy the zoning laws of the local municipality. In rural areas, where land for such developments is plentiful, many municipalities have adopted zoning ordinances which, by accident or design, make it very difficult to establish wind or solar projects. This has led to a slower-than-anticipated adoption of wind and solar power in Michigan.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has recently proposed a new plan for siting and permitting solar and wind projects. While a formal plan has yet to be submitted to the legislature, the general idea is to give the State more authority over whether and where wind and solar projects are located. Specifically, the current proposal is to obtain approval through the Michigan Public Service Commission.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is a 3-person body that oversees and regulates energy and telecommunications in Michigan. It provides general oversight in ratemaking, facility siting and need determination, customer assistance, and public safety. The MPSC is heavily involved in regulation of Michigan’s existing utilities.

Proponents of the plan claim that it is in the best interests of the State to simplify and streamline the approval of solar and wind projects. Opponents of the idea argue it will deprive local residents of control over their communities. In order to pass and be successful, the ultimate plan will likely need to strike a balance between limiting overly restrictive local ordinances while still allowing for a degree of local oversight of solar and wind developments.

There is no firm public timetable for a plan to be presented to the legislature, but developers and residents alike are eager to see the final proposal.

The attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC are experienced in renewable energy developments. We represent individual landowners as well as developers and operators. If you have questions regarding a potential solar or wind development, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to speak with you.

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