A large-scale solar project in Muskegon County may come to light within the next couple of years.
Kansas-based Tradewind Energy Inc. negotiated terms with Consumers Energy in Jackson to purchase land lease options on the Muskegon County wastewater management site in Moorland Township, south of Apple Avenue.
Tradewind and Consumers have estimated a solar plant on the 1,900-acre site would create 125 megawatts of electricity. Tradewind also estimated the project would generate about $75,000 in annual property taxes for Muskegon County.
Tradewind Energy and Muskegon County originally entered into a solar lease agreement in August 2016. The lease granted Tradewind the right to develop a solar farm on the property.
The Muskegon County Board of Public Works agreed to ratify a previously executed solar lease, easement and real estate purchase option with Tradewind Energy on Sept. 25, 2018. The agreement will allow the company to assign the agreements to Consumers Energy, which is considering moving forward with the solar project.
Jonathan Wilson, economic development manager for Muskegon County, said Tradewind Energy performed all the permitting, site work, title work, testing and due diligence on the site, which will allow Consumers more freedom by simply building on the previous work done.
Details of the project still are being completed, including a construction timeline. Roger Morgenstern, senior public information director for Consumers Energy, said the September lease transfer was one step in a complex process, and Consumers has not decided definitively to pull the trigger on the project.
Consumers now will utilize the studies and due diligence that Tradewind performed since 2016 to determine if it’s viable for solar.
Wilson added most of the site’s acreage is farmland, and the county can continue to use it as such until Consumers notifies the county it is ready to begin construction.
“We’re definitely not close to construction,” he said. “They (Consumers) were talking about the end of 2019. If we can get something up by 2020, I think that would be more realistic.”
As the Business Journal reported in July, Consumers Energy released a draft clean power plan to the Michigan Public Service Commission. The plan calls for the elimination of Consumers’ coal-based electric generation by 2040 and the addition of 5,000 megawatts of solar energy.
Consumers Energy also has two solar gardens at Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University that generate up to one and three megawatts of electricity, respectively.