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Potentially $50M solar farm could power Ann Arbor municipal operations on 100% renewable energy

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A 24 megawatt solar installation could be built on and around Ann Arbor's old landfill.

A proposed large solar farm is moving ahead for approval. The 24 megawatt solar installation could power the equivalent of five thousand households. 

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Missy Stults is the Sustainability and Innovations Manager for the City of Ann Arbor.

“When you add in the hydro energy that we generate, as well as the methane that we capture from the landfill, this gets the city of an obvious municipal operations government footprint — our electrical use — to about zero. Hundred percent powered with clean, renewable energy,” said Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovations Manager for the City of Ann Arbor.

The proposed site of the solar farm is on top of Ann Arbor’s old landfill and other areas in Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township. Solar panels would be installed in phases in an area bordered by Ellsworth Road, Stone School Road, East Morgan Road, and Platt Road.

Ann Arbor will need approval from Pittsfield Township because part of the land is within the township's jurisdiction. 

“Because that site is partly in the city and partly in Pittsfield Township. So we have to do an amendment to our agreement to be able to develop that site. And that's working and it looks like that's about to clear a hurdle," Stults said.

The capped landfill and other areas within the above map would be turned into a "solar farm" producing enough energy to power 5,000 households.

The biggest hurdle is the cost of hooking the system up to the grid. The total cost of the solar farm could range anywhere from $20 million to $50 million. It depends on the capacity of the nearby existing power lines. DTE has a line near the site, but it's not the only option for the site.

"It's also right next to an international grid line. So if we can't get into the DTE grid because it's too congested or there's not room, we can actually connect into much bigger lines,” Stults explained.

In the worst case scenario, the cost of getting the infrastructure to get the power generated connected to the grid could be massive. More research has to be done to determine the actual cost.

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Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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