Newsletter: Webinars Educate Farmers About Solar Leases, Lansing BWL Moves Forward with Plans for Natural Gas Plant

This newsletter was originally published on March 28, 2018.

MEO, Farm Bureau and MSU Extension will Host Final Webinars for Farmers Considering Solar Leases

As solar energy developers reach out to farm owners to secure land leases for solar energy projects, MSU Extension, Michigan Farm Bureau and Michigan Energy Office (MEO) have been holding programs for farmers across the state.

The Michigan Energy Office has planned two webinars this week (Wednesday and Thursday evening) to round out the program. The webinars will address the following:

  • Context for Solar Energy Development on Michigan Farmland
  • Community Vision for Solar Energy Systems
  • Zoning Approaches for Solar Energy
  • Siting Considerations for Utility-Scale Solar
  • Integrating Solar with Existing Ag Systems
  • Understanding Solar Energy Lease Agreements
  • Taxation Guidance including Impact on PA 116

“Solar energy has become more attractive to farmers who are considering the benefits of leasing solar panels on their property,” said Anne Armstrong Cusack, acting executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy. “During this additional webinar, experts will explain the details of lease agreements, along with tax and zoning considerations. The Michigan Energy Office is proud to partner with MSU Extension and the Michigan Farm Bureau in making this webinar available.”

Michigan EIBC plans to participate in these webinars. Anyone else who is interested in participating can register here.


Plans for Lansing Gas Plant Move Forward

The Lansing Board of Water and Light Commission unanimously passed a resolution to issue bonds necessary to implement the transmission and distribution system necessary for a planned 170 MW combined-cycle natural gas plant and two 40 MW combustion turbines.

The utility held public meetings before originally settling on a natural gas plant to replace two coal-burning plants by 2025 and meet a goal of 30% renewable energy by 2030. A spokesperson for the Board of Water and Light says even with the new natural gas plant, the utility’s carbon emissions will decline 80% by 2025.

On the other side, advocates like Rebecca Payne of the Lansing Environmental Action Team argue that the energy market has changed quickly, and natural gas may no longer be the best option. Payne and others attended the Tuesday meeting, asking the board to re-examine the alternatives, including solar, wind, storage, and demand reduction.

Following the passage of the resolution, the next step is for the Board of Water and Light Commission to approve the contracts for purchase and construction of the planned plant and turbines. The role of natural gas in a diverse portfolio continues to be upheld but debates abound over investing in large generation when smaller projects pieced together with other energy resources may be more prudent.


Renewing Members

Michigan Biomass is a coalition that advocates for the state’s grid-connected, wood-fired power plants – facilities constructed between 1985 and 1994. It was formed in 2007 to ensure that the biomass power industry would continue to contribute to the state’s energy, resource and economic wellbeing under renewable energy policy. About 20% of the state’s renewable energy comes from forest-based, sustainable resources, mostly byproducts from wood products manufacturing. Because these power plants predate Michigan’s RPS they are affected differently by the growing renewable energy marketplace. The intrinsic values of biomass power – jobs and rural economies, low-value wood fiber markets, forest health and stewardship, mitigation of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, and support of the state’s electricity transmission system – warrant energy policy that preserves the production capacity and non-energy values these facilities provide.


Michigan Energy Stories

  • Carla Walker-Miller of Walker-Miller Energy Services and an EIBC board member was featured in a piece by the Detroit Free Press.
  • In case you missed it: opposition continues to grow against planned net metering changes in Michigan. 
  • As Michigan utilities phase out coal the debate over natural gas heats up.
  • Livingston County officials threw their support behind a proposed $1 billion natural gas power plant planned near Fowlerville.
  • DTE Energy announced plans to add 4,000 MW in new renewable energy.
  • Dearborn residents can comment on DTE’s proposed power plant at a hearing on March 27.
  • Patti Poppe, CEO of Consumers Energy, wrote a column in The Detroit News titled “Michigan deserves clean energy.”
  • Trevor Lauer, President and COO of DTE Electric, wrote a letter to Crain’s Detroit Business titled “Michigan needs 24/7 energy sources” in response to a story on widespread opposition to the utility’s proposed 1100 MW combined-cycle natural gas power plant that is currently under review by the MPSC.
  • Jamie Scripps of Michigan EIBC member company 5 Lakes Energy talked about rate design in a video for the Ohio Power Forward Conference.

Michigan Energy Leaders


National Energy Stories

  • Both the House and Senate are in recess and will return the week of April 9. When they return, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is expected to testify before the House Energy and Commerce’s Energy Subcommittee on April 12. The subcommittee is also expected to hear from all Federal Energy Regulatory Commission members on April 17 and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on the EPA’s budget request on April 26.
  • Congress increased funding for DOE clean energy programs in an omnibus spending bill passed early Friday, rejecting requests from the Trump administration to gut the programs. Lawmakers also agreed to fund the EPA at the same level as 2017, rejecting a Trump proposal to cut the agency’s budget by 31%. 
  • House lawmakers grilled FEMA on why over 100,000 residents of Puerto Rico are still without power after Hurricane Maria.
  • Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, told the Senate Finance Committee that the European Union, Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea would be excluded from the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.  
  • Multiple utilities and a regional grid operator asked FERC to reconsider an order to include energy storage in wholesale electricity markets.
  • FERC has indicated that it may use a “minimum offer price rule” to help keep uneconomic coal plants online.
  • After natural gas and coal generation fell in 2017, and renewable energy grew, a study found that renewables like wind and solar could power most the country..
  • Lawmakers are concerned that Russia could launch a successful cyber attack on the U.S. power grid, causing “rolling blackouts and chaos.”

National Energy Leaders

  • Polling commissioned by the Sierra Club shows growing support in swing states, including Michigan, for 100% renewable energy policies.
  • A suburban Cleveland community received a $70,000 grant for energy efficiency projects.


Michigan Energy Events 
IPU MSU has announced the dates for the IPU Grid School: April 9-12 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing, Michigan. Register here.
You’re invited to a Michigan Energy Workshop on Wednesday, April 25 from 9am to 12:00pm at the Governmental Center Training Room in Traverse City. This workshop is hosted by the City of Traverse City and SEEDS. Learn more and register here.
Michigan EIBC’s 6th Annual Member Meeting is scheduled for April 30 in Lansing, followed by a Lobby Day on May 1. Mark your calendars, and register here to reserve your spot at the Annual Member Meeting today.
Michigan EIBC will host a Michigan Energy Forum on energy efficiency and lighting on June 11 at member company CLEAResult’s office in Detroit. Stay tuned for details!
On July 17-19, PlugVolt will be hosting its next Battery Seminar in Plymouth, Michigan (USA), featuring an entire day of in-depth training by EnerDelon Lithium Ion technology, alongside complementary industry updates by automotive and grid storage OEMs, global battery manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers. Attendees also get a tour of Intertek’s Battery Testing Center. Register here.
National Energy Events   
EUCI invites you to its event, “Capital Planning for Grid Modernization: Building the Grid of Tomorrow,” April 3, in Denver, Colorado. Register here.
You’re invited to the IPF technical conference for offshore wind April 3-6 in Princeton, New Jersey. Register here.
ACI invites you to “Microgrids East 2018,” on April 11-12 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Register here.
EUCI invites you to the Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) Summit April 16 – 17 in Portland, Oregon. Register here.
EUCI invites you to the Utility-Scale Solar Power Plant Fundamentals conference on April 18 – 19 in Portland, Oregon. Register here.
Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) presents an event examining the trends and key issues driving energy efficiency in Wisconsin and surrounding states. Join M-WERC, our members, partners and invited guests on April 19 in Milwaukee to explore energy efficiency programs and technologies. Learn more and register to attend here!
Join solar & clean energy experts at the 5th annual Midwest Solar Expo & Smart Energy Symposium, April 30-May 2 in Minneapolis, MN. Exhibition, networking, solar farm visit, startup showcase, training, more. Register today!
Join Greentech Media for the 11th Solar Summit on May 1-2. Get 15% off with code ENN15.
AWEA invites you to the Powering Forward conference May 7-10 in Chicago, Illinois. The conference, entitled WINDPOWER, will create an opportunity for the industry comes together to plan for the future and keep this success story growing. Register here.
EUCI invites you to “Blockchain Technology for the Energy Sector” May 8-9 in Houston, Texas. Register here.
EUCI invites you to the 2018 Residential Demand Charges Conference, May 15-16 in Nashville, Tennessee. Register here.
You’re invited to the 3rd Annual Grid Modernization ForumMay 23-24 in Chicago. This event examines the latest business strategies and technology advances for implementing the distributed, intelligent, and renewables-centric grid of the future. Learn more and register here. Use code MWEN for 20% off.

EUCI invites you to the Leadership Conference for Women in Energy 2018 on June 4-5 in St. Louis, Missouri. Register here.

Join ACI in San Francisco on June 6-7 for Grid-Scale Storage 2018 and learn through different panel discussions, site tours, workshops, and presentations on the significant market opportunities for energy storage. Register here.

EUCI invites you to a conference on the fundamentals of overhead distribution systems on June 14-15 in Baltimore, Maryland. Register here.

You’re invited to present, advertise, exhibit, or sponsor at The Energy Fair, June 15-17 in Custer, Wisconsin. Learn more and register here.
You’re invited to the EV Roadmap 11June 19-20 in Portland, Oregon. Register here.
You’re invited to the Grid Evolution Summit hosted by Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), in Washington, D.C., July 9-12Register here.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) invite you to Solar Power International, September 24-27, in Anaheim, California. Registration opens in spring of 2018 here.

Announcements and Opportunities
ARPA-E announced $16 million in funding for eight projects as part of the Innovative Natural-gas Technologies for Efficiency Gain in Reliable and Affordable Thermochemical Electricity-generation (INTEGRATE) program.
The Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) today said there’s still time for Michigan students in grades six to 12 to participate in the My Solar School contest. To enter, student teams must submit, by March 30, a study for installing a solar system at their school, along with a short video outlining their vision. Visit the My Solar Schools website for more information.
The Michigan Battle of the Buildings is April 18. Join the awards and recognition program for energy use reduction today! The competition is open to all Michigan area commercial, industrial, non-profit, educational institutions & multi-family buildings. Any building type except single family residential. Registration ends March 31.
Nominations are now being accepted for the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards to honor Michigan organizations and individuals for their commitment to responsible energy production and consumption. The Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards celebrate outstanding achievements by recognizing people and organizations that have taken firm, meaningful actions to stop energy waste. Last year, energy solutions honored at the awards ranged from installing energy-efficient, state-of-the-art heating, cooling and lighting systems to common-sense, lower-cost steps like caulking windows and adding insulation. Nominations can be submitted online at through March 31 with winners to be announced at a celebration in the fall. 

The Rural Energy for America Program has published a Notice of Solicitation of Applications for Federal Fiscal Year 2018 in the Federal Register. The Application Templates and Forms are available at USDA Rural Development Offices or the National REAP Website at:, under Forms and Resources.