Q: For Solar energy, is there an average per State based on how 'sunny' a State is? Being in Michigan, much of winter is cloudy and didn't know how much this affected potential for solar energy.
A: The National Research Energy Lab (NREL) has interactive U.S. State Solar Resource Maps that show Direct Normal Irradiance as well as Global Horizontal Irradiance for the U.S. Michigan’s Resource Range for Direct Normal Solar is 3.4 to 4.4(kWh/m2/Day) and Michigan’s Resource Range for Global Horizontal Solar resource is 3.5 to 4.0(kWh/m2/Day) https://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html
Cloud cover certainly reduces the power generated by a solar panel, as does the length of day as you move North and South in the U.S. These factors are accounted for by the interactive maps described above.
Q: What is included in evaluating the economics?
A: There are many techniques and models that can be used to evaluate your proposed projects economics, including some free ones available through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, like CREST (Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool).
Q: If you were to install solar panels on a landfill, what would be the maximum slope they could be installed on?
A: Ideally, a fixed solar energy system should be at an angle that is equal to the latitude of the location where it is installed. However, pitch angles of the panels between 30 and 45 degrees will work well in most situations. As too how steep of a slope you can install panels on will depend on the type of installation, either a fixed installation (panels do not move) or a tracking installation (panels move to track the sun’s path, and optimize the most exposure), and also if the mounting systems will be installed in foundations or driven into the ground.
Q: What kinds of renewable energy projects will people likely invest in in SE Michigan, SW Michigan, and other parts of Michigan? What will we see in Detroit area for renewables? As a consultant, what will be our roll?
A: With wind projects currently having a more difficult time with siting in Michigan, it looks like the largest growth will be in Solar.
Q: What is considered a sensitive receptor for a renewable project?
A: Sensitive receptors are people or other organisms that may have a significantly increased sensitivity to a project either during the construction phase (e.g. traffic, noise, dust…) or operational phase (e.g. noise, glare, shadow flicker…) by virtue of their age and health (e.g. schools, day care centers, hospitals, nursing homes), and status (e.g. sensitive or endangered species)
Q: What kinds of impacts are you talking about with shadow flicker studies?
A: Impacts associated with shadow flicker are the sensitive receptors, as described in the previous question, and is mostly an impact on quality of life and causes a nuisance effect for receptors that are affected. Some concerns are raised that shadow flicker has the “potential” to cause nausea, dizziness, and disorientation.
Q: How would you perform a glare study – what is involved in that?
A: The most important aspect of the glare study for commercial and utility solar projects is to ensure that the glare does not cause travel hazards and impair the quality of life of the surrounding residences and businesses (sensitive receptors). The study is completed by running simulations for different observation points around the project using computer modeling, such as the Solar Glare Hazard Analysis Tool.
Q: For biomass, are odor/prevailing wind siting factors?
A: Yes, when looking at siting your project, odor/prevailing wind would be considered, and dependent on what type of biomass you are considering to burn would impact your decision and potential air quality permitting requirements.
Q: If you install solar panels, and someone puts a massive billboard or building up shading your investment. Who is responsible for the loss on the return of investments?
A: You would need to consider these possibilities prior to developing your project, either by leaving a sufficient buffer on your property or coming to an agreement with neighboring land owners, likely in the form of a solar easement.
A solar easement is a bit more complicated than a traditional easement for a pipe under your yard or a walkway from your home. A solar easement restricts what your neighbor can build or grow on his property within his or her airspace, because the neighbor cannot block sunlight to your solar panels.
Solar easements are the best method of assuring that you will have solar access, even if your neighbor sells the home, since easements are a permanent part of the parcel’s property record. (While you could ask your neighbor to refrain from planting a tall tree blocking your panels, this promise would not bind a buyer of the house who moves in next year).
Unlike a power company, which can claim an easement under your land by necessity, solar easements are voluntary. This means you can’t force your neighbor agree to a solar easement; you will likely have to provide what's known in contract law as "consideration," meaning some form of payment.
Q: What issues or impacts are generally overlooked while proposing a renewable energy project?
A: Although permitting generally comes to mind first, carefully ensuring that you are considering all potential permits and impacts your project may encounter, the largest delays I have experienced on projects have come from public opposition. Because of the delays I have seen from the public and other interested stakeholders (i.e. non-profit organizations), I highly recommend making public outreach and education a high priority throughout the life of the project.
Q: How do you interrelate AC & DC current?
A: There are some topics that are better suited to be answered by other experts, unfortunately, this is one.
Q: Is shading considered a wetland disturbance for these renewable energy sources?
A: Presuming that this is related to a wind turbine, the impact would most likely be shadow flicker on a sensitive receptor within the wetland, such as a rookery of herons and egrets, or another breeding species. So careful evaluation of potential sensitive receptors is important early on in the projects lifecycle.
Q: At what % design completion is major changes not to be considered? 35%?
A: Final design and changes ultimately are up to the project owner and the projects timeline. The further into the projects timeline, major changes have a higher potential to cause delays, especially with permitting through regulatory agencies.
Q: When do you recommend applying to a utility? Do you account for interconnection fees and system upgrades in your analysis? (Asked by CMS)
A: If your project is going to distribution, the local utilities are a major stakeholder that should be engaged early in the project timeline.
Q: Does the MDEQ have a required amount of time for review and provide comments?
A: According to MDEQ, “generally it will take from 30 to 90 days from the time we receive a complete application until a decision is made on your permit.” Other factors include:
- The size and complexity of your project.
- The number of corrections and additional information that are required for your original application to be administratively complete.
- If the project requires a Public Notice or a Public Hearing.
- The season of the year, with spring and summer being the busiest.
- Correct application fee paid.
Q: Is the claim that solar is more efficient than wind in MI true?
A: In the United States, wind power is significantly more popular than solar. Out of all the renewable energy produced in the U.S. in 2017, 21% came from wind, while just 7% came from solar power. Utilities and large scale operations prefer to utilize wind energy while homeowners prefer solar energy.
The primary benefit of wind over solar power is that wind turbines aren’t dependent on sunlight. This means that they have the ability to generate power 24 hours a day, whereas solar panels only generate power during sunlight hours. Wind come with a significant caveat, however: in order to be effective, wind turbines need to be situated high above any obstacles that would block the wind.
Q: Is there a typical way these projects are financed?
A: Some examples of financing include loans, third party investors, banks, etc… P3’s are still relatively rare in the U.S., but interest from smaller communities looking to develop a project without the upfront cost.
Q: As public outreach is so important, should a company engage a PR firm prior to embarking on a project?
A: If your development group does not have a dedicated PR group with experience, I would recommend using a PR firm with a good track record on renewable energy projects, and carefully vet any firm you are considering hiring.
Q: What is the best approach to engage the community surrounding project areas?
A: There is no “silver bullet” when it comes to community engagement, and this is where a well-studied and experienced PR group will greatly benefit your project.
If you were not able to attend the webinar, you can click here to view it.