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Construction starts on Lansing BWL utility-scale solar project

Michigan’s Lansing Board of Water and Light and groSolar on Aug. 29 announced the start of construction of a utility-scale solar project in Michigan.

The project, first announced in December 2015, was delayed because the original site proved unsuitable for construction of the project, BWL noted in a news release.

"This solar energy project expands and diversifies our renewable energy portfolio for our customers," said BWL General Manager Richard Peffley. "Solar energy projects like this will feed directly into the BWL’s distribution system and supply power during the summer peak demand period.”

The approximately 24-megawatt AC solar array is expected to generate approximately 45,000 megawatt-hours annually. BWL customers will receive power generated by the solar array by the summer of 2018 through a power purchase agreement between groSolar, a solar power development, engineering, procurement and construction firm, and BWL.  

The project is estimated to create over 150 temporary full time construction jobs and generate approximately $5 million in wages, BWL noted.

BWL, which has announced community solar parks to be built in East Lansing and Lansing, Michigan, also provides its customers with wind energy from a wind park in Ithaca, Michigan; landfill gas energy from Granger waste facilities; and hydro-electric power. “BWL’s state-of-the-art REO Town Cogeneration Plant is among the cleanest and most efficient in the country,” the utility said in the news release.

BWL recently agreed to retire its 160-megawatt, Erickson coal-fired power plant by the end of 2025 under a settlement agreement with the Sierra Club. In 2015, the utility said that it would close its oldest power plant, the coal-fired Eckert plant, within four years.

BWL said it is committed to a clean energy future for the Lansing region as outlined by both integrated resource plan recommendations of the utility’s Citizen Advisory Committee and the 2016 BWL strategic plan.

The IRP, strategic plan and the utility’s customers all have called for a mix of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and new highly efficient natural gas generation to replace BWL’s coal-based generation and maintain a reliable, low-cost and environmentally sound portfolio.

BWL has adopted a plan to provide 30% clean energy by 2020 and 40% by 2030. By expanding its clean energy portfolio and closing its coal plants (Eckert in 2020 and Erickson in 2025), BWL said it will achieve an 80% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

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