The Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL) has officially declared it will no longer burn fossil fuels by December 2025 at its coal-fired Erickson Generating Station. The agreement also enforces the BWL’s previously announced plans to retire the plant by December 2020, as well as committing to adding at least 106 megawatts of new solar and wind energy generation by Dec. 31, 2020.
Beyond adding alternative energy generators, the BWL is committed to several clean-energy investments under a settlement agreement with the Sierra Club; they are required to meet a combined renewable energy efficiency goal of 30 percent of their total retail sales by Dec. 31, 2020, and 35 percent by Dec. 31, 2025. Per the agreement, the BWL will put $300,000 toward creating a sustainability program that will “promote energy waste reduction or pollution prevention in the city of Lansing and its surrounding community.”
“[This] announcement is a positive step toward prioritizing Michigan’s clean air and water, as well as protecting public health in the Lansing area. We have an opportunity now to avoid environmental and health risks in a way we did not have when coal-burning power was the only option,” said Regina Strong, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Michigan. “Over the past five years, we have seen large-scale solar and wind outperform coal, and now we are seeing renewable energy become even more competitive. We are pleased to reach this agreement with the BWL, which will help meet Mayor Virg Bernero’s commitment to climate action consistent with the Paris Climate Accord. This will go a long way in moving Lansing area residents toward the clean energy future they deserve, one that puts public health first.”
And it seems that Lansing residents are more than ready for a clean energy solution. The Sierra Club conducted a 400-person poll of registered voters in Lansing, East Lansing and Lansing Township in May 2016, asking participants how they felt about renewable energy and energy efficiency. Overall, the poll results showed voters were in high favor of both of those initiatives, voting 75 percent in “high favor” for energy efficiency, and 76 percent in “high favor” for renewable energy efforts.
The Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of communities, protect wildlife and preserve the remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and legal action.
In addition to these clean energy efforts, the BWL has partnered with groSolar — a national solar power development, engineering, procurement and construction firm — to build the state’s second largest utility-scale project. First announced in December 2015, the project had been delayed due to the original site being deemed “unsuitable” for the project.
The project will be located near the corner of Sundance and Guinea roads in Delta Township of Eaton County. Besides creating solar power, the project is also estimated to create more than 150 temporary full-time construction positions, translating to an estimated $5 million in wages. The project is expected to generate 45,000 megawatt hours of solar power annually — enough to power more than 3,300 homes. The amount of clean energy the project will produce will also help to offset 31,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the environment. By summer 2018, the BWL’s customers will receive power generated from the solar array, through a purchase agreement between groSolar and the BWL.
“This solar energy project expands and diversifies our renewable energy portfolio for our customers,” said General Manager Richard Peffley. “Solar energy projects like this will feed directly into the BWL’s distribution system and supply power during the summer peak-demand period. We’re proud to be a leader in renewable energy. We were the first utility in Michigan to develop a renewable portfolio standard.”
With the largest municipally-owned Cedar Street solar array, the BWL continues to be the leader in providing Lansing customers with clean, green, renewable power sources and energy saving programs. Besides solar power, the BWL also provides wind energy sourced from a wind park in Ithaca, Mich. Other energy sources include landfill gas energy from Granger waste facilities and hydro-electric power.
As outlined in the 2016 Strategic Plan, the BWL is committed to providing a clean energy future for the Lansing region through a mix of renewable energy, energy efficiency and new highly efficient natural gas generation. All of these things combined will replace the BWL’s coal-based generation and will continue to sustain a low cost, eco-friendly portfolio. By closing coal plants and expanding its clean energy portfolio, the BWL estimates a reduction of 80 percent in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.