Proposed solar farms cause community concerns
In an effort to bring more renewable energy to Michigan’s Thumb, solar companies have proposed converting agricultural land into space for large-scale solar farms. However, this push is causing concerns among community members.
The proposed solar farms would cover more than 1,000 acres and would be placed near the Michigan Thumb Loop 345KV Transmission line, which is a 140 mile high capacity line that runs through Tuscola, Huron, Sanilac and St. Clair Counties.
People in the area say the large size of the proposed solar farms could cause issues with the community’s economy, ecosystem, and health.
The Tuscola County drain commissioner, Robert Mantey, expressed concerns over the quantity and quality of water runoff from solar panels. In a letter to county commissioners, Mantey said he’s worried that the runoff may contain PFAS chemicals, which have been found in waters across Michigan and are known to cause health problems in humans.
While there is currently no research into whether water runoff from solar panels is harmful, he said he is nonetheless concerned.
Mantey said he is also concerned about the temperature of runoff from heated solar panels. He said it could affect drain and stream temperatures, which could be harmful for the county’s ecosystems.
Finally, Mantey said in his letter that he is worried that the amount of runoff from the solar panels could overwhelm the county’s current drainage system, resulting in significant flooding problems to downstream residents, villages, and roads.
Nancy Laskowski, Tuscola county planning commissioner, said she is concerned with her county’s ability to handle solar panel runoff with the current drain system that is in place.
“Here in the thumb, especially in the last couple of years, we have had some really bad flooding up into the tip of the thumb especially, and this is a potential of turning that into a much worse situation,” Laskowski said.
Mantey set a list of requirements that he said would need to be met in order for solar farms to be placed in the county including: no major structures being placed in the drain right of ways, charges for borings underground through the right of ways, charges for any additional crossings to cross a county drain for construction or maintenance, and for any costs for developing agreements or any other review or inspection costs to be the responsibility of the solar farm authority.
In neighboring Sanilac County, community members have expressed concerns over proposed solar projects in the area.
Sanilac county conducted a study looking into how the development of alternative energy farms on working agricultural land could impact the community’s economy.
The study showed that for every one-percent of agricultural ground lost to solar and wind development, there is a $6.4 million economic loss to the community.
The study showed that 47% of the survey’s respondents strongly opposed large-scale solar energy development in Sanilac County. When asked whether they supported solar energy development in Sanilac County if it displaced agricultural land, 63% of respondents said they strongly opposed it. The main reasons centered on the loss of agricultural land and the impact solar farms would have on property values.