On July 19, 2021—following the release of the company’s updated Clean Energy Plan—leaders from Consumers Energy, the state of Michigan and the city of Cadillac dedicated the company’s third solar power plant, Cadillac Solar Gardens.
That’s positive in itself, but what makes this project truly regenerative is that it’s a brightfield: the first for Consumers Energy. Virtually every community in America has at least one brownfield that they can’t afford to remediate. Corporations nationwide have left communities holding the bag by merging or declaring bankruptcy when the cleanup bill comes due…a form of corporate socialism.
But communities are increasingly realizing that they can restore productivity to these properties even when they can’t afford to remediate them: byt turning them into solar energy production facilities.
“Today marks a major milestone for the city of Cadillac and the entire state as we celebrate the dedication of Consumers Energy’s Cadillac Solar Gardens,” said Carla Filkins, the mayor of Cadillac. “We’ve come together to turn a blighted brownfield property into a site that will play a key role in Michigan’s clean energy transformation and help better protect our environment for generations to come.”
Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan proposes using nearly 8000 megawatts of solar energy by 2040, ending the use of coal by 2025, achieving net zero carbon emissions and saving customers $650 million through 2040.
Cadillac Solar Gardens will generate nearly half a megawatt of electricity, enough to power as many as 100 homes at a time. The site has 1,752 panels and includes a battery storage system.
“Cadillac Solar Gardens represents yet another bold step in our efforts to lead the clean energy transformation,” said Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, Consumers Energy’s vice president for customer experience.
“As Consumers Energy’s first Brownfield to Brightfield project and our third solar power plant, this project will help us protect our planet, spur economic development in this community, and allow us to provide cleaner, more reliable energy across the state. It also builds on our strong and ongoing commitment to providing low-cost solar energy to our customers. Bottom line — it’s a win-win for all involved,” she added.
The Cadillac Solar Gardens site is a repurposed brownfield land with a manufacturing history that dates to the late 1800s. Before the solar power plant, the site had been vacant for more than 30 years after the closure of an auto manufacturer.
“This project marries two of Michigan EGLE’s important strategies,” said Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). “It puts a formerly vacant, contaminated property back into productive use and onto local tax rolls, improves air quality, and moves Michigan closer to meeting Governor Whitmer’s Mi Healthy Climate plan goal of statewide carbon neutrality by 2050.”
Consumers Energy also operates solar power plants at Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University. Those two locations generate enough power to serve over 800 homes at a time.
The company’s three solar locations are part of the Solar Gardens community solar program. Consumers Energy customers enrolled in Solar Gardens pay as little as $10 a month to support solar projects and receive bill credits based on electricity that’s generated. Learn more at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/solargardens.
Each year, Consumers Energy is adding more clean, renewable, solar-generated electricity for Michigan with plans for 1,100 megawatts of utility-scale solar to come online between 2022 and 2024. The company’s solar ramp-up will continue throughout the coming decade. By 2040, clean, renewable fuel sources such as solar and wind will comprise more than 60 percent of the company’s electric capacity.
In addition to its environmental benefits, solar is increasingly cost competitive with other fuel sources. Consumers Energy can also add solar gradually, providing flexibility to respond to emerging needs, adapt to changing conditions and embrace new technology — without having to build a large, new fossil fuel power plant.
Consumers Energy is Michigan’s largest energy provider, providing natural gas and/or electricity to 6.8 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.
Photo courtesy of Consumers Energy.