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UPPCO to buy solar farm power

ESCANABA — Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) has entered into an agreement with Chandler Solar Project LLC, a joint venture between affiliates of Orion Renewable Energy Group LLC and MAP Energy, LLC, for the purchase of renewable energy that will be generated by a new 125-megawatt utility scale solar energy facility in Escanaba Township.

A solar energy ordinance will be on the agenda of Monday’s meeting of the Escanaba Township Board. The solar farm has not yet been approved by township officials. That issue will be discussed at a meeting of the Escanaba Township Planning Commission on Tuesday.

When added to the output from the company’s existing hydroelectric generation resources, the solar project increases the amount of renewable energy being delivered to UPPCO’s customers to more than 50 percent of their total consumption by the end of 2022.

The project is expected to save UPPCO’s customers over $20 million in energy costs over the next 25 years and is part of the company’s Integrated Resource Plan pending before the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). UPPCO began developing its Integrated Resource Plan in 2018 by holding a series of public listening forums. During the forums, UPPCO asked its customers for input on how best to source its energy requirements in the future.

“This is a great project that lowers energy costs for our customers and is better for the environment, two of the most important messages we heard from our customers,” said Jim Larsen, chief executive officer.

“At the end of our planning process, we concluded the solar energy resources in the Delta County area were some of the best in the state, even better than most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula,” said Brett French, VP of communications and business development. “Delta County is known as the Banana Belt for good reason. With reduced cloud cover, low average humidity and long summer days, the area is a great location for the production of solar energy using modern technology.”

The Chandler Solar Project will be located within Escanaba Township. It is anticipated that the facility will create up to 200 construction jobs and pay more than $10 million in property taxes over a twenty-five-year period. The land rights necessary for the project have already been obtained and local permitting is underway. Construction is expected to begin in 2021 with a 2022 in-service date. The project is contingent on receiving final approvals from the MPSC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other state and local governmental entities.

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