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Michigan state senators advocate for "community solar" projects in a virtual event

Solar panels behind a few corn plants
Jim Mone/AP
A "community solar" garden near Faribault, Minnesota.

Republican Ed McBroom and Democrat Jeff Irwin answered questions about their co-sponsored solar legislation as part of Western Michigan University's Climate Emergency series.

Households that do not have their own solar arrays should still be able to use solar power, a bipartisan pair of legislators argued Wednesday in a Zoom talk.

"Community solar" allows households to get electricity from medium-scale solar arrays off-site and to get credit on their utility bill. Republican Ed McBroom and Democrat Jeff Irwin are co-sponsoring the legislation. It would force utilities to allow their customers to participate.

“It's really crucial for renters, or for people who live in very tree-covered areas that don't get good sunlight, to be able to participate in our clean energy future,” said Irwin.

McBroom said the proposal would force local utilities to work together “to provide the smooth ability for people to benefit from this. It just shouldn't be so complicated or such a frustrating fight to get this cooperative effort done.”

Several communities in Michigan with publicly controlled utilities have “community solar” projects. Irwin said many people don’t realize that solar power has become more affordable.

“Solar generation is cheaper. That's the thing I feel like we need to be stomping our feet about all over the place,” he said. “Everybody’s still stuck in the 90s, and they think that solar power is expensive. It's not. it's cheaper.”

Senate Bills 152 and 153 are waiting for a hearing in committee.

Consumers Energy opposes the legislation. In a statement, the utility said that the bills would raise costs "for all customers to subsidize profits for out-of-state developers.” The company also said it already offers several community solar programs.

The talk was part of Western Michigan University’s “Spring Into Action” series on the climate. WMUK is a sponsor of the series.

The Consumers Energy Foundation is an underwriter of WMUK.

Updated: March 18, 2024 at 12:36 PM EDT
This story has been revised to clarify that the Consumers Energy Foundation is an underwriter of WMUK.