Solar farm proposed near Sawyer

MARQUETTE — A 100-megawatt solar farm could soon be a reality in southern Marquette County.

The Marquette County Board this week unanimously approved moving forward with a lease agreement for about 1,000 acres near K.I. Sawyer with Marquette County Solar Project, LLC.

The project, while in its early stages, could potentially produce enough clean energy to power 20,000 homes at less than 10 cents per kilowatt hour, said Rich VandenVeen, president of Mackinaw Power,

“Hopefully we’ll sell the power to complement the new gas projects that are being proposed,” said VandenVeen. “My hope is that this project not only stabilizes, but actually lowers the cost of energy for every single resident in Marquette County. The future is coming.”

If the project were to move forward, the potential investment could reach $100 million, said VandenVeen. It could also support around 200 construction jobs, as well as local municipalities and schools through tax revenue.

VandenVeen said he’s working with Trade Wind Energy out of Kansas City and a European company on the project.

So far, they’ve developed over 3,000 megawatts of operational wind and solar projects, powering more than 1 million homes across the country.

“We intend to triple that,” he said.

The first year’s lease payment would be $500,000, and $20,000 annually in subsequent years throughout the first phase, according to a memo.

If the project were to move forward, $150 will be paid annually for each acre of land selected for development, for a term of 30 years, according to lease terms.

If the full 1,000 acres were to be utilized, Marquette County could receive more than $6 million in lease payments over the 30 year extended term period.

Chairman Gerald Corkin said this is an exciting project for Marquette County, as residential energy costs are significantly higher across the Upper Peninsula than other parts of the country.

“I’m really impressed with the goal,” he said.

According to documents included in the meeting packet, all lease revenue and re-harvesting up front dollars will be placed in the county’s Forestry fund and new tax revenue will be directed to Sawyer International Airport operations.

Forsyth Township and area schools will also receive tax revenue from the project.

Kelsie Thompson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206, or kthompson@miningjournal.net.


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