Who in Michigan doesn’t love a sunny day out on the lake, camping at a state park or going for a bike ride on your favorite trail? While the sun helps boost serotonin and Vitamin D in our bodies, it can also help power our homes and businesses. At Consumers Energy, our Clean Energy Plan will dramatically increase renewable energy — adding 8,000 megawatts of solar by 2040 — while eliminating coal as a fuel source by 2025 and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.
You may have heard many myths about solar energy, and we’d like to set the record straight.
MYTH: The sun doesn’t often shine in Michigan, and we have a long winter season.
FACT: Summers in Michigan create higher demand for the electric grid with more air conditioners running, and the sun shining powering our solar panels aligns nicely with that. Even though we are all used to long winter seasons (ahem, snow in April), our utility scale solar panels are bifacial, which means they still produce energy when the sun reflects off the snow. Additionally, we’re counting on battery technology to help us store electricity generated by solar and other renewable energy sources. We’ll save it for those times when solar production is challenging to help meet the demand for power on the grid.
MYTH: Solar panels negatively impact animals, including birds and waterfowl
FACT: We have had no collision incidents at our sites to date and work to place arrays away from bodies of water to mitigate this myth. We continuously monitor the impact on wildlife and are prepared to act if we see something that needs to change. Before developing, we complete site characterization studies before the building, including assessments for wildlife habitats, wetlands, and environmental analysis.
MYTH: Solar is expensive!
FACT: Solar is increasingly cost-competitive with utility-scale projects providing the best value for our customers. With an 8,000-megawatt solar expansion as the centerpiece, our proposed Clean Energy Plan creates price stability and will save customers an estimated $600 million through 2040.
MYTH: This will eat up all the agricultural land we have in the state
FACT: Generating solar energy requires significant tracts of land — between five and 10 acres per megawatt of electricity —flat, open and treeless with direct access to the sun. That said, we expect to meet our solar energy targets using less than 2 percent of the farmland in Michigan. We’re considering potential locations such as farm fields — including those less ideal for growing crops — brownfield sites, and state and publicly owned properties.
MYTH: There will be no places to recycle solar panels at the end of the arrays design life?
FACT: Solar panels are safe and efficient investments in our community to help us achieve our clean energy goals. Our panels use Photovoltaic (PV) materials that convert sunlight directly into energy. Over 95% of photovoltaic panels are recyclable. There are multiple regional recyclers in Ohio, Wisconsin and Tennessee that we can utilize for our recycling needs. Finally, most of our PVs are new and won’t need to be disposed of for 30 or more years. If they require replacement before then, we work with the manufacturers on warranty issues and disposal.
Our Clean Energy Plan will create a brighter energy future for Michigan in the next 20 years. That starts with 8,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar power by 2040 — when solar power will comprise more than half of our electric capacity.