Solar energy proposal near Sawyer airport filled with possibilities

We’ve used this space in the past to hold forth in favor of green energy projects. There can be little doubt the age of many fossil fuels is drawing to a close and green energy projects will light the way, so to speak, into the future.

That said, it’s also true not every green energy program is a good fit for every geographic location. It takes community education, communication and a willingness to work together to achieve something real to make these projects a reality.

By all accounts, Richard Vander Veen, a consultant for Tradewinds Energy, understands that. A veteran of several significant wind energy projects in the state of Michigan, Vander Veen was in town recently, talking up the possibility of constructing a large-scale solar energy generating station in an area just south of Sawyer International Airport.

“We’ll build a substation and put it on the grid, and hopefully it will be a very valuable project for this region,” he said for a Mining Journal story on the matter. “The goal here is to stabilize and cut the costs of power, cut the environmental footprint and make this a beneficial project for the community.”

Marquette County was selected as a good candidate for a solar energy project after geographic information system data was examined by Tradewinds Energy, he said.

“They looked all over the country for these sites and there’s only one county in Michigan that could host a very large solar project that is not too rocky, not too much wetlands, and it’s close enough to a popular center to justify a large project,” he said.

And a fairly large project it would be, something in the neighborhood of 100 megawatts.

The benefits here would be not only construction and maintenance jobs but property tax collection. Vander Veen estimates about $9 million would be generated over the life of the project, much of which could be vectored to the cash-starved Gwinn Area Community Schools.

All of the above is still in the discussion stage, of course. We’re going to need a great many more details before we can endorse the project, carte blanche. But, at a bare minimum, we like the thinking, the willingness to take chances and to push the envelope.

We’ll be watching this one very carefully.