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Scripps: One-half percent of Michigan’s land needed for wind, solar projects

Land devoted to wind and solar would go from 17,000 acres to 209,000 under state zoning plan

A two-bill package that will give the Michigan Public Service Commission the final say in siting large solar and wind projects in Michigan has advanced to the full Senate.

If the bills are enacted into law, about 0.5% of Michigan’s acreage could be permitted for wind and solar projects.

The Senate Energy and Environment Committee on Tuesday approved amended versions of House bills 5120 and 5121. The House passed the bills last week.

As Michigan implements Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate plan, planners have run into one consistent problem: local communities that reject large-scale solar fields and wind turbines. Under the bills, as amended by the committee, local communities could only reject these projects in the event of incomplete paperwork, lawmakers said.

If a local government rejects a project for any other reason, the developer could present it to the Michigan Public Service Commission for approval. Local communities would have no veto. That would reside with the commission, whose three members are appointed by the governor.

Dan Scripps, chairman of the commission, testified at Tuesday’s meeting. He said it was necessary to vest the commission with these powers to meet Michigan’s clean energy goals.

About 17,000 acres in Michigan were now covered by wind and solar infrastructure, Scripps said. On the high end, that number could balloon to about 209,000 acres, he said.

“The highest number in terms of the amount of acreage of direct land use under a high-growth scenario, again, is about 209,393 acres of new land,” Scripps testified. “That's a big number. But in context, it represents about 0.55% of Michigan's total projected or total area. And so it’s a significant growth — and I am not here to pretend otherwise — over what’s in place today. But it's still about one-half of 1% of Michigan's total land.”

The committee approved the bill by an 8-5 vote along party lines. One lawmaker, Sen. Rosemary Bayer, D-West Bloomfield, passed.

To be enacted into law, both bills would need to be passed in identical forms by the House and Senate and be signed by Whitmer.


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.