Let commercial solar shine throughout state

Several northwest Lower Michigan townships appear to be clearing the regulatory path for small-scale commercial solar power generation.

That’s encouraging news for companies that seek to earn profits from power generation. It also is encouraging news for area residents, who would benefit from the power grid stability that would result.

Putting all your eggs in one basket generally is not a good idea. Smart investors distribute their money in various places so if one choice is bad, they don’t lose everything. It’s called diversification.

Diversifying the electric power grid — by generating energy from multiple sources in multiple locations — makes just as much sense as putting life savings in a variety of investments rather than just one.

The more power sources we have online, the more stable the electric grid will become. If one particular source — a coal plant, a natural gas plant, a wind farm, a nuclear plant — has a problem, the other sources should be capable of filling the gap.

The distributed strategy makes even more sense in this era of threats — real or imagined — from both within and without our borders.

Giant centralized power plants could be targeted by anyone who wants to harm American society. Small, distributed sources of electricity are much less vulnerable to human threats.

They’re also a sturdy defense against any natural disaster that could knock out a single massive power plant.

But adding solar farms to our countryside needs to be done with care. The pastoral northwest Lower Michigan views are precious and must be preserved. Local rules should require that residential and rural landscapes be treated with respect.

A proposal in Green Lake Township would establish a 50-foot buffer between solar arrays and residential property lines, and would require screening in some cases. Those are sensible conditions.

Local townships including Acme, Elmwood, Fife Lake, Green Lake and Long Lake are talking about changing their rules to allow small-scale commercial solar power farms.

“I think these townships should be all over it,” said Heritage Sustainable Energy CEO Marty Lagina. “You’re talking about clean, green renewable energy that adds to the tax base and doesn’t add anything to the infrastructure costs.”

Lagina wants to build a 1-megawatt solar array in Green Lake Township. His company operates an existing array in Elmwood Township, at the base of the iconic wind turbine generator along M-72.

Electricity needs to originate somewhere. Fulfilling a portion of our needs from small solar arrays tucked away here and there among the hills and valleys of northern Michigan is a good idea.

Such installations would stabilize the power grid and would, as Lagina suggests, supplement the local tax base. And if they’re built in the right places, they don’t need to detract from the scenery.

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