Packed House Hears Solar Farm Proposal at Saline Township Board Meeting
It was an overflow crowd at the Saline Township Board meeting Wednesday evening. The evening included a 25-minute presentation from Invenergy, the country’s largest renewable energy company, plus another twenty minutes of questions from the township residents, all on the solar energy project being proposed for Saline Township.
Washtenaw Solar Energy Center
Jorie C. Fox, Renewable Development, Senior Analyst with Invenergy, provided residents with an overview of the solar energy project proposed for the township. She reported that the Washtenaw Solar Energy Center (WSEC) is projected to have a maximum capacity of 150 Megawatts of solar photovoltaic energy which is the equivalent of providing power for over 30,000 homes.
Fox said that Invenergy estimates 1,200 acres will be needed for the project, located primarily south of the existing transmission line which runs east to west. Within the township, the solar farm would be located off of Macon Rd, just south of Willow Rd. Invenergy currently has approximately 2,500 acres under contract but it was noted that because of various township zoning ordinances, natural features and other environmental concerns, not all of the 2,500 acres will be eligible to use in the project.
Invenergy is required to conduct a variety of studies prior to starting the project, including:
- Site Characterization Study
- Raptor Nest Survey
- Wetland Delineations
- Agency Consultation (USFWS, MDNR)
- Cultural Resources Review
- Hydrology Report
- Geotechnical Studies
- Interconnection Analysis
- ALTA Survey
Fox stated that the energy center would have 4-6 full-time, local personnel and the site would be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, both locally and remotely. Invenergy requires annual training with local emergency response personnel. The site and equipment will have routine inspections. On-site maintenance will include at least 2-3 mowings per year, more if needed.
Fox explained the economic benefits of the project. It is expected that there will be hundreds of jobs during construction with over 200 expected to be fulfilled locally. This includes several ongoing local jobs created for operations, maintenance and service technicians.
There is an anticipated increase in tax revenue for local units of government. The increase in revenue is spread over the 30-year life expectancy of the project. Revenue increases include:
- Over $9 million in total school district revenue
- Over $2 million in total Saline Township property taxes
- Over $4 million in total county property taxes
Fox stated that another benefit of the Washtenaw Solar Energy Center is that it allows the landowner to diversify farm revenue which will help to stabilize farm revenue over the long term. In addition, use of the land for solar facilities does not place additional burden on local services. Fox would not say how much Invenergy is paying landowners to use the property, but said the leases pay more than they'd typically generate with agricultural use.
Invenergy will be presenting a request for a special use permit at the Saline Township Planning Commission later this year. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the special use permit request, which will include a detailed map of all of the properties being proposed for inclusion in the project.
Daniel Cabege, PE, Fleis & Vandenbrink, consulting engineer for Saline Township, provided an update on Andelina Farms. He reported that progress is being made on the development. Final construction of the waste water treatment plant is near, other infrastructure is in and models are open. Mr. Cabege reported that sidewalks are going in and the project appears to be on schedule.
Molly Lumper-Coy, from emergency management a DTE, introduced herself to the township board, and provided a brief description of the work of DTE and its involvement in the Saline community. Ms. Lumper-Coy provided her phone number to residents for anyone who had concerns regarding their DTE service, (313) 820-3881. Trustee Robert Marion noted, with a smile, that his DTE bill reflected lower usage than the previous year but at a higher cost. The remark drew wide laughter from the people at the meeting.
Washtenaw County Road Commission:
Tim Dwyer, a Saline Township resident who assists the township with the road commission, provided the board with the roads projected for limestone treatments next year. These included Arkona, Hack and Braun roads.
The township adjourned their meeting at 8:15 p.m. The next township board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, 8-11-21 at 7 p.m. at the Saline Township Hall.