Consumers Energy to bring on stream in 2023 three Michigan solar stations, total capacity 375 MW
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Consumers Energy, a leading utility and electricity generating company in the U.S. state of Michigan, announced it would bring on stream in 2023 three solar power stations with a combined capacity of 375 MW – comparable to the total capacity in Finland (319 MW, according to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency - IRENA).

    One of the three stations – Washtenaw Solar Energy with 150 MW capacity – will be directly owned by Consumers Energy. The company will buy power from the other two stations – Jackson Solar, capacity 125 MW, and Cereal City Solar, capacity 100 MW – through National Grid Renewables, an energy supplier specialised in alternative energy sources, and NextEra Energy, a utility on the list of the 200 largest American companies, according to Fortune Magazine.

As a utility serving 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents, Consumers Energy will supply low-carbon power to end-user consumers.

    The company’s plans up to 2024 include an increase in solar capacity of 8 GW – of which 1.1 GW will be brought on stream by that date. By way of comparison: In 2020, installed solar capacity in Mexico totalled 5.6 GW, according to IRENA. In the United States, that indicator last year hit 75.5 GW – compared to a total of no more than 6 GW in 2011.

    A key factor in such rapid growth were low operating costs of solar stations. As operators of solar stations need not spend money on fuel purchases, unit costs on servicing them in the United States are one-third those of nuclear power stations — $10 (against $30) per MWh of generated electricity, according to figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA). A large gap is also evident in unit construction costs of the two types of stations ($1,100 per MW capacity of solar stations against $5,000 for a nuclear power station.

    The weakness of solar power stations is their clear dependence on weather conditions.

    In 2020, according to IEA figures, the average load of solar panels stood at only 21 %, as opposed to the equivalent of 50 % for gas-fired stations and 90 % for nuclear power stations. And that explains why – despite the more than tenfold increase in installed capacity of solar stations in the United States between 2011 and 2020 (from 6 GW to 75.6 GW) – their share of de facto generation rose over the same period only by two percentage points (to 2.3 %, according to data from the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy).

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