Here comes the sun.
At the Ann Arbor City Council meeting Monday night, councilmembers approved a contract between the city of Ann Arbor and DTE Energy to build a solar panel farm at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport.
Nearly 14 acres of city-owned land, located just south of Ann Arbor, will be used to create the solar farm. Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1), Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor (D) and Councilmember Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) co-sponsored the initiative.
Briere wrote in an e-mail interview that the 20-year contract is renewable and all revenue produced will go directly toward funding airport improvement projects like replacing aging hangars.
According to the contract, DTE Energy will be responsible for building and maintaining the project.
“DTE will build the array, and will pay the City based on solar energy produced — between $41K and $81K per year,” Briere wrote. “The City will make no investment other than the land.”
During Monday’s meeting, Briere said the Ann Arbor airport is the best place for the solar panel to be installed because it is far enough from residences, a concern among some opposed to the contract.
Scott Simons, a spokesman for DTE Energy, said the contract between the energy company and Ann Arbor is part of a larger company goal to derive 10 percent of the company’s produced energy from renewable sources. Under Michigan’s 2008 Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act, Michigan electricity suppliers are required to include at least this amount of renewable energy by 2015.
Ninety percent of DTE’s renewable energy will come from wind energy, with the remaining 5 percent derived from solar energy and biofuels, Simons said.
DTE’s initiative to use more renewable energy sources includes customer-owned and utility-owned programs. The utility-owned programs require that the company partner with a host organization. In this case, the host organization is the city of Ann Arbor.
Simons said 20 utility-owned sites like the one planned in Ann Arbor have already been built and another six will be finished by the end of 2015.
DTE has similar solar panel contracts including one with Monroe County Community College, Blue Cross Blue Shield in Detroit, Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, two with General Motors plants and two with the University.
Simons cited Ann Arbor’s interest in increasing the city’s use of renewable energy as a motivation for the councilmembers to approve the contract.
Taylor said the solar panel initiative is part of a larger plan to improve the city’s sustainability efforts.
“We have a sustainability framework which provides the direction for some of these city actions,” Taylor said. “We have a climate action plan to increase our use of renewable energy and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The siting of Michigan’s largest solar field on the city of Ann Arbor property is an important step to realize the goals of both those plans.”
Briere echoed Taylor’s comments when discussing her own motivations for co-sponsoring the contract.
“I believe that the City should continue to reduce its dependence on petroleum products,” Briere wrote. “As the City continues to address our sustainability framework and climate action plans … this project addresses several important aspects, including … our community’s desire to have access to more renewable energy sources.”