Michigan Legislators Introduce Bills to Expand Access to Community Solar

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Michigan residents and communities would be able to participate in Michigan’s growing solar economy under bipartisan legislation recently introduced by State Reps. Michele Hoitenga, a Republican, and Rachel Hood, a Democrat.

House Bills 4715-16 would remove existing policy restrictions to allow for the development of small-scale community solar projects that would enable greater access to solar, lower utility bills, and create jobs and economic development across the state. Under the legislation, residents could subscribe to a portion of a community solar project and receive credit on their electricity bill for the power produced, just as if the panels were on their own roof.

“Expanding solar energy in Michigan will strengthen our energy grid and boost our economy – without raising taxes,” says Hoitenga. “This plan saves businesses and Michigan residents money while creating jobs and more customer choice.”

Currently, more than 50% of Michiganders cannot access solar energy due to financial barriers, roof limitations or property ownership. Community solar projects allow renters, low- and moderate-income residents, small businesses, government buildings, schools and churches to share a solar facility with their members and neighbors.

The program provides all Michigan residents and businesses with the ability to subscribe to solar energy from a specific community solar project. Community solar projects – which under the legislation would be limited to 5 MW – are usually built on small parcels of underutilized farmland, but can also be built on large commercial rooftops, parking lots, brownfields or reclaimed mining lands.

Under the legislation, all projects would be locally permitted and municipalities would be provided with increased property tax revenues – in addition to the direct and indirect economic benefits that will trickle down during construction. In many cases, community solar would help generate tax revenue on properties that are currently adding marginal value to the community.

Photo: Michele Hoitenga

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