DTE Electric Receives Approval for New Wind Farm and Solar Arrays

A new wind farm and two new solar arrays to be built by Detroit-based DTE Electric Co. are expected to generate more than 350 megawatts of electricity by 2021.
aerial view of a solar array
DTE Energy is adding more solar and wind farms to its renewable energy portfolio. // Photo courtesy of DTE Energy

A new wind farm and two new solar arrays to be built by Detroit-based DTE Electric Co. are expected to generate more than 350 megawatts of electricity by 2021.

The approvals and prior investments in renewable energy are in line with the state’s requirement to have 15 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2021.

The Michigan Public Service Commission approved DTE’s amended renewable energy plan, which addresses concerns raised by the commission in previous orders. The following requests were approved:

  • Ex parte approval of the Meridian Wind Farm Turbine project’s supply agreements and engineering, procurement, and construction contracts between DTE and General Electric Co., Vestas-American Wind Technology Inc., and Barton Malow Co. Meridian Wind Farm, located in Mt. Haley and Porter townships in Midland and Saginaw counties, will provide 224.9 megawatts of electricity, and commercial operation of the facility is slated to begin in late 2021.
  • Ex parte approval of solar power purchase agreements between DTE and Assembly Solar III and River Fork Solar II, both subsidiaries of Ranger Power, for two 25-year terms. The Assembly Power facility in Shiawassee County would provide 79 megawatts of renewable energy, while the River Fork solar facility in Calhoun County would provide 49 megawatts.

DTE Electric plans to invest in renewable energy projects to achieve its voluntary goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The commission’s order resolves issues it raised after DTE filed an application in March 2018 to add to its renewable energy portfolio. On July 18, 2019, the commission granted partial approval of the amended plan, permitting DTE to proceed with renewable generation assets that qualified at the time for 100 percent of the federal production tax credit for renewable energy.

The commission’s July 18 order approved wind contracts for the 72.45-megawatt Fairbanks Wind Park, the 197-megawatt Isabella I Wind Farm, and the 186-megawatt Isabella II Wind Farm.

The commission left renewable generation assets not qualifying for the full tax credit to be evaluated in DTE Electric’s integrated resource plan with the expectation that DTE would seek another amendment of its renewable plan.

In February, the commission recommended changes to DTE Electric’s integrated resource plan, citing a lack of competitive bidding and other issues that left the commission without enough information to evaluate the proposals. DTE later filed an amended plan addressed Thursday.

The order noted that the minimum size requirements in DTE’s request for proposals precluded smaller wind and solar resources from consideration. The commission urged DTE to find ways for smaller or community-based projects to be considered in future request for proposals or investments in renewable energy.

The commission also approved a request by DTE Electric to accelerate amortization of the utility’s more than $1.36 billion regulatory liability for non-plant-related accumulated deferred income tax balances under the 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowered the federal corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent.

The order also approves the company request to file a securitization financing application and request for financing order in 2021. DTE will amortize its regulatory liability by the end of 2021, instead of April 2033, without changing customer rates, allowing the company to defer its rate case filing previously set for July 2020 to at least March 1, 2021. DTE’s request noted that its rate case application would have sought to recover additional costs incurred amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, DTE signaled in the request its intent to commit to retire its River Rouge Unit 3 coal-fired power plant in May 2021. DTE is to file its community transition plan for River Rouge no later than Sept. 30.

While the commission says it doesn’t anticipate a need to approve the transition plan, it expects DTE Electric to work with stakeholders who filed comments in the case, local officials, and the River Rouge community as a whole for feedback in formulating and implementing the plan in a timely manner independent of DTE filing a new rate case. The approved actions are not expected to increase the cost of service to customers.

The commission also approved amended power purchase agreements between Jackson-based Consumers Energy and Bullhead Solar, Geddes 1 Solar and Geddes 2 Solar to move up the start dates for providing renewable energy to the utility, originally set for Sept. 14, 2021, to Oct. 15, 2020.

The three plants will pay accelerated start date payments totaling $189,000, an amount Consumers will provide to customers through its power supply cost recovery proceedings. The amended agreements are together expected to reduce customer costs by about $738,618.

Another approved initiative is Alpena Power Co.’s voluntary green pricing program, which allows residential and small commercial customers to designate how much of the electricity they use should be generated from renewable sources. The commission’s order continues the company’s previous voluntary green pricing program.

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