Community Solar Planning

What is Community Solar?

Communities are pursuing renewable energy to access environmentally sustainable, and increasingly a more affordable, source of electricity.  The use of solar technologies, which convert sunlight into electricity, is increasing as its costs decline and sustainable energy sources become a priority for communities.  Even in the Upper Peninsula, with our long, snow winters, the adoption of solar is accelerating.

Access to solar technology can be challenging for residents and businesses.  Despite falling costs, the technology still requires a substantial upfront investment. Some potential adopters do not have favorable installation sites due to shading and other property limitations.  Others may be concerned about the reliability and required maintenance of the technology.

The concept of “community solar” is meant to address these (and other) challenges.  While community solar projects can take many forms, most contain the following features:

  • One (or multiple) large solar project is developed in an optimal location to maximize electric generation
  • The system is owned, directly or indirectly, by more than one party
  • The energy generated by the system is credited to the ownership base

L’Anse Community Solar Feasibility Study

In 2017, with support from Michigan’s Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI) and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, WUPPDR partnered with Michigan Technological University and WPPI Energy to explore the potential of establishing a community solar program in the Village of L’Anse.  The study’s goals are to:

  • Generate market data to help develop a community solar program for L’Anse residents and businesses;
  • Increase rural communities’ access to renewable energy infrastructure;
  • Reduce long-term energy costs for L’Anse customers;
  • Attract new industries to the region;
  • Increase the community’s resilience to regional and global economic challenges;
  • Reduce the carbon intensity of the community’s energy supply; and
  • Establish a model for other rural communities seeking to pursue local energy solutions.
Potential solar park site

The location of the potential L’Anse Community Solar Park

SunShot Competition

In March 2017, the Village of L’Anse’s community solar project was selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar in Your Community Challenge.  The challenge focuses on expand solar electricity access to all Americans, especially underserved segments such as low- and moderate-income (LMI) households, state, local, and tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations.

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