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Large solar energy farm proposed for Ann Arbor airport

DTE Energy

Ann Arbor and DTE Energy are working on plans for a 10-acre solar farm at the city's airport just south of Interstate 94 in Pittsfield Township.  

DTE spokesman Scott Simons said if approved, it would be the company's largest solar energy installation. 

Simons said the power generated at the solar farm would most likely be used to power homes and businesses near the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport. "This 1.1 megawatt project would be big enough to power about 150 homes, " he said.

Matt Naud, Ann Arbor's environmental coordinator, said, "It's a big step forward in expanding renewables in Ann Arbor," adding that the city is "really interested in moving to a carbon zero energy use."

The proposed 10-acre farm is part of a 40-acre site between two of the airport's runways off Lohr Road, providing the opportunity for expansion in the future.  

Naud  said the project still needs to be approved by the Ann Arbor City Council, Pittsfield Township, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration. He thinks it is possible the project could be built by the end of 2015.

Naud says the plan calls for DTE to pay for the installations and for use of the land. He estimates it will generate tens of thousands of dollars in revenue each year for Ann Arbor, far more than the approximately $3,000 currently received from use for farming.

According to Simons, 95% of DTE's  renewable energy portfolio comes from wind power. And that's because it is three to six times cheaper than solar. But Simons said it's important to test solar technology and how it works in Michigan to be prepared if the cost equation changes.

– Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom