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Michigan businesses get $27M in federal funds for solar arrays, co-op loan – MLive.com

Federal grant dollars will help pay for solar panels across Michigan that will generate more than 300 kW of new solar electricity per year. (Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican)
Michigan will receive more than $27 million in federal grants and loans for about a half-dozen clean energy installations and a major electric cooperative building project.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $800 million for climate-smart infrastructure across the nation and Michigan’s portion will result in more than 477,000 estimated kilowatt-hours of new solar energy a year. The federal funds come from the bipartisan infrastructure law and will support 165 clean water and renewable energy projects nationwide.
Projects in Michigan which received the smallest and largest funding levels are both in rural northern Michigan. The smallest is for a family farm, and the largest for an electric cooperative.
Thad Jackson said his family-owned farm in Fife Lake installed a small-scale, 5.46-kW solar array in August last year for about $19,000. A USDA Rural Energy for American Program (REAP) grant for $4,641 will help cover about 25 percent of the project’s cost.
The solar panels already reduced by half the monthly electric bills at Old Hickory Beefalo Farms through the winter months, when the sun rarely shows itself in the northern stretches of the state. Jackson said he is eager to see how well the system performs once summer arrives and sunny weather returns.
“We’re just hoping to see more and more energy produced,” Jackson said.
The farm raises a breed of cattle called beefalo – a genetic combination of cattle and bison – and the electricity used to keep the livestock watering system from freezing during winter months draws the largest amounts of energy on the farm, Jackson said.
“Unfortunately, that doesn’t coincide with the highest production time. But I think in the long run it’s going to offset quite nicely, and if it keeps going the way it is, the system should pay for itself within 10 years,” Jackson said.
The beefalo farm’s solar project is one of seven funded across Michigan by this cycle of the federal REAP program.
Other projects funded through the USDA grant program include:
Electricity generated from solar panels and wind turbines is considered carbon-free energy and factors heavily in the state’s new MI Healthy Climate Plan – the playbook for the state to reach a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.
Federal officials said people in rural America experience the impacts of climate change in many ways, including severe droughts, more frequent wildfires, and more destructive and life-threatening storms.
Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said when investment in infrastructure in rural communities are made, “we are investing in our planet, and we’re also investing in the peace of mind families will have when kids are drinking clean and safe tap water in their homes.”
The largest project in Michigan to receive infrastructure dollars through the USDA is an expansion and remodel of the headquarters and warehouse for Great Lakes Energy Cooperative in Boyne City. A $27,044,000 federally guaranteed loan was awarded to the electric co-op, which serves about 127,000 customers through its more than 14,500 miles of powerlines in 25 northern and western Michigan counties.
Related articles:
$100-million solar farm could be coming to Lapeer County
Neighbors blast proposed Washtenaw County solar farm as eyesore
Michigan ski resort chiefs call for climate action, reduce own emissions
Proposed solar array could cover 160 acres of farmland in western Washtenaw County
Michigan township says no to solar farms. Some residents say they’re missing out on millions
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