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Community solar bill aims to expand access to solar power

Consumers Energy

A newly introduced bill in the state House would allow people to buy shares in a solar array. The concept is called community solar. The bill was introduced by Representative Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton).

Each subscriber would pay a portion of the cost of constructing the solar array, and they would get a credit on their electric bill for the electricity produced.

Ed Rivet is with the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum. 

He says under the bill, 10 or more people or groups could support clean energy even if they can't install their own rooftop solar panels.

That could include renters and condo owners, businesses or places of worship.

"If your house or business or church doesn't face south, or you have trees, there could be physical reasons it's just not a good place to put solar," says Rivet. "Or you live in an apartment or a condo; the apartment building owner or condo association's not likely to allow someone to put solar panels just on their portion of the roof."

Rivet says he hopes the bill moves forward, because it has the potential to speed up the deployment of solar in Michigan.  

Currently, some Michigan utilities have programs where people pay extra to get part of their electricity from utility-owned solar installations.

But those programs do not typically result in immediate construction of new solar. Rather, more solar arrays are added once the programs have reached a certain level of participation.

Rivet says a community solar law would encourage independent companies to immediately build solar arrays, with the help of subscribers to each project.

The Michigan Public Service Commission would set the rates for community solar projects.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.