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Group continues solar power study

ESCANABA TOWNSHIP — An ad hoc committee focusing on the future of solar power in Escanaba Township has begun holding meetings as it works towards reporting on its findings early next year.

The Escanaba Township Planning Commission appointed nine applicants to the ad hoc committee during a meeting on Nov. 4. According to its mission statement, the ad hoc committee’s goal is to explore and provide a report and recommendations to the planning commission on potential changes to the township’s zoning ordinance dealing with solar power, as well as a related special land use application to operate an industrial solar farm or farms in the township.

The committee’s mission statement also lists some solar power-related issues the planning commission felt needed to be independently analyzed. These include existing sources of groundwater contamination in Escanaba Township, the loss of farmland as a result of Orion Renewable Energy Group’s proposed Escanaba Township solar farm, security for the removal of solar farm improvements at the end of the project’s useful lifespan, aesthetic concerns, financial impacts, the project’s effects on wildlife and fire hazards related to the project.

So far, the committee has met twice in closed session; it plans to continue meeting twice a month through February 2020. In its meetings, the committee has been looking at the questions it has been asked by the planning commission and collecting information that will be used to answer these questions.

While people on both sides of the township’s debate on solar power are represented on the ad hoc committee, Lawrence Klope — the committee’s chair — said its members have been behaving professionally.

Klope declined to comment on the committee’s meetings in greater detail. He noted he did not want to risk misleading members of the public by sharing information before it is properly vetted.

“We have to go through and screen this stuff,” he said.

The committee’s findings will be shared with the planning commission — and, subsequently, the public — after its first report is completed. The report is expected to be given to the planning commission in February.

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