Renewable energy siting legislation signed into law
Legislation that preempts existing local siting authority, sets statewide siting standards and grants siting authority for renewable energy facilities to the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has been signed into law. Public Acts 233 and 234 of 2023 will take effect on Nov. 29, 2024.
“These bills represent a continued attack on the ability for Michigan’s residents and their locally elected officials to have the final say on how their communities grow and change. The new laws simply do not create a balanced or equitable approach to our state’s renewable energy needs,” stated Neil Sheridan, MTA Executive Director. “Rather, the legislation unduly forces large, utility-scale renewable energy facilities into our rural areas, while also stripping away local input on where and how much should be located in a community. The new laws prescribe statewide, one-size-fits-all requirements, and negate current renewable energy zoning provisions already carefully and thoughtfully enacted in communities around the state.”
The legislation applies to all solar projects with a nameplate capacity of 50 megawatts or greater, wind projects with a nameplate capacity of 100 megawatts and energy storage facilities with a nameplate capacity of 50 megawatts or more. This fast-tracked legislation, which was introduced and passed in less than a month, was a priority of the governor’s administration. The measures are effective one year after the governor’s signature.
While the bills were amended to require a developer to go through a local unit of government, the local unit must have a “compatible renewable energy ordinance” that complies with statewide standards such as setbacks, decibel levels and height. A renewable energy ordinance is not considered compatible if it is more restrictive than the statewide standards. The local unit would then be limited to a period of 120 days to approve or deny the project with a possible extension of up to 120 days ONLY if mutually agreed upon by the local unit and the developer. If the local unit denies or fails to act on the proposal, the MPSC would then receive the application.
If a local unit does not have a “compatible renewable energy ordinance,” the developer would apply directly to the MPSC which would have 60 days to review the application to determine if it is complete and one year to approve or deny the application. Additionally, while MPSC shall consider the impact on the local land use, including the percentage of land within the local unit of government dedicated to energy generation, the legislation does not limit the overall land that can be utilized in a local unit for said purposes. A one-time $2,000 per megawatt payment in provided from the energy facility owner to the local unit for public safety and infrastructure purposes; however, both parties (the local unit and the energy facility owner) must agree on how the funds can be spent.
We thank our member officials who reached out their state representatives and senators, helping us fight on behalf of local control for Michigan’s communities. While the outcome is not what we fought for, changes were made that were reflective of opposition and concerns raised. Your voices truly did make a difference.
MTA and its members stridently opposed the legislation, which creates a one-size-fits-all approach for Michigan’s communities. This legislation silences the voices of local officials and residents over these important local decisions. We believe that the siting and permitting of renewable facilities should remain with the local community where that facility will be located for the next 20 to 50 years.
We continue to work with our partners and experts to help navigate a path forward for our members and address the many unanswered questions and concerns that remain for local leaders and their residents. Watch for additional information in our Township Insights enewsletter, Township Focus magazine and on MTA’s website.
MTA statement by MTA Executive Director Neil Sheridan:
“Utility-scale renewable energy siting can be an incredibly contentious topic in communities across the state. But the answer is not to take away local governments and residents’ say about issues and decisions that have very real, lasting and potentially dramatic impacts for their community. Attempts to strip away local authority are becoming more and more common. No one knows a community—and its wants and needs—better than residents and the local officials they elect to represent and serve them. We understand the need, and the desire, for renewable energy. Many townships across the state are already home to renewable energy facilities—by their choice. We will work to ensure that communities and Michiganders keep their voice on these important local decisions.”