Solar array file

Heritage Sustainable Energy's solar array on M-72 west of Traverse City. Elmwood Township planning commissioners recently approved a special land use permit for the company to build another, 2-megawatt array a half-mile away.

TRAVERSE CITY — Another solar array is coming to Elmwood Township, one the developer has planned since building its first in 2017.

Township planning commissioners on Tuesday approved a special land use permit for Heritage Sustainable Energy’s 2-megawatt array, township Planner Sara Kopriva said.

The company plans to build a more than 6,000-panel array on land where Harry’s Road meets M-72, planning documents show. Reviews found the project meets permit requirements that include spacing and a landscaping screen between the array, nearby roads and an adjacent house.

Commissioners’ approval is contingent on the developer and township attorney reviewing assurances for the array’s removal at the end of its 20-year lifespan, Kopriva said.

“It’s just a guarantee for the township that there would be the money available should it be needed at the end of the life of the project,” she said.

Planning commissioners voted 4-2, with board members Doug Roberts and Jeff Aprill voting against, Kopriva said.

Reid Johnston, another planning commissioner, was absent.

Traverse City Light & Power board members recently agreed to buy the power at 5.7 cents per kilowatt-hour for five years, with a jump to 7.141 cents afterward, and then with annual increases until the deal expires at 2041’s end.

The new array will be a half-mile from Heritage’s current 1-megawatt installation, built in 2017. Traverse City is buying the output for its goal of powering municipal operations with clean energy by 2020.

Heritage’s original plans for the expansion hit a snag when Elmwood Township officials adopted a zoning code in 2017 without utility-scale solar as an allowed use. TCL&P board members also passed on a previous, costlier offer to buy power from the new array.

Elmwood officials added solar arrays to their ordinances in September 2018. Lengthy negotiations between the developer and TCL&P’s executive director resulted in a power price board members could accept.

A message left for Heritage CEO Marty Lagina wasn’t returned Wednesday; he previously said construction on the array would start shortly after the permit’s approved.

Kopriva said construction likely will have to wait until questions about funding for the array’s removal are resolved.

“I don’t anticipate that being any lengthy time,” she said.