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Solar Farms Set to Power Coldwater and Marshall in Michigan
Michigan Ag Connection - 02/06/2024

The Michigan South Central Power Agency (MSCPA) is charting a new course in solar energy with plans to develop solar farms generating 9.6 megawatts of energy in Coldwater and Marshall. This decision comes after negotiations with the Oceana County solar project, operated by NorthStar Energy, fell through due to disagreements on contract rates.

Pam Sullivan, the power agency manager, cited challenges in reaching an agreement on contract rates with NorthStar Energy, leading MSCPA to reconsider its options. Although the proposed price remains confidential due to a confidentiality agreement, Sullivan emphasized the agency's commitment to exploring alternative avenues for sustainable energy.

Hart Solar, owned by NorthStar Energy and located in Michigan's Oceana County, had offered to sell up to 100 megawatts of solar energy. However, construction plans were contingent on securing power purchase contracts with municipal, cooperative, commercial, and industrial customers in the Midwest.

MSCPA views the Coldwater and Marshall projects as integral to meeting state and customer requirements, providing energy, capacity, and renewable energy credits. The proposed solar farm in Coldwater would utilize city-owned property along the east side of I-69 between State and Newton roads. In Marshall, plans involve situating the solar farm on a city-owned parcel of land southeast of town near the nature center.

The construction timeline hinges on MSCPA securing a USDA grant, covering 25% of the power purchase costs once determined post-construction. Sullivan highlighted the agency's commitment to flexibility, proposing language that allows members to proceed with the projects even if the grant is not obtained.

The American Municipal Power, an Ohio-based joint operating agency managing MSCPA, would oversee the construction of the projects. Members would enter contracts to purchase the power, eliminating the need for municipalities to borrow or bond for solar farm construction. Participants from the cities stand to gain energy, capacity, and renewable energy credits, contributing to the region's sustainable energy initiatives.

The Coldwater Board of Public Utilities revealed plans for a local 1.1-megawatt solar facility, signaling a broader commitment to renewable energy in the region.

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