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Clinton County adopts one-year moratorium on utility-scale renewable energy projects

 solar panels outside on a sunny day
American Public Power Association

Clinton County’s Board of Commissioners is adopting a 1-year moratorium on utility-scale renewable energy projects.

Officials began exploring the moratorium after some community members voiced concerns with the size and placement of potential developments, especially those that would be located on farmland. The board authorized the pause in a 6-1 vote Tuesday.

11 townships in Clinton County will not see any new wind or solar power construction approved under the measure.

Clinton County Administrator John Fuentes says the measure does not prevent home or business owners from installing solar panels on their own property.

“This moratorium ... only applies to utility scale, solar and wind projects. This does not apply to residential solar projects.”

East Lansing Democrat John Andrews was the lone member of the Board to vote against the moratorium. He pushed back against some concerns surrounding solar panel use on farm land, arguing the projects could actually support crops and enhance agricultural production.

Andrews also says the moratorium will limit possible investments in the county to mitigate climate change.

“We just don't have time," Andrews said. "We don't have time to sit for a year without any new solar projects.”

Fuentes notes that no renewable energy projects are currently being held up by the moratorium because there aren't any active proposals that have been submitted or are being reviewed by the county.

Officials say the moratorium will give them time to update county zoning regulations that guide what renewable energy projects can be approved. A sub-committee will explore how other parts of the state regulate the projects and recommend changes for the utility proposals. Those could range from adjusting how much noise is permitted to what parts of land can be used.

That group will be composed of 11 municipal officials, six members of the public and two planning commission members.

The moratorium could be revoked once these new regulations are approved, meaning the pause could come to an end before one year has passed. The Board of Commissioners established a goal of having the changes finalized by the end of 2023.

Andrews says he wants to ensure the committee has fair representation with members who also support solar projects.

"There are a lot of people in Clinton County that are for solar," Andrews said. "I think it needs to be as evenly split as possible for and against...hopefully this will be a good way to educate not only the people on the subcommittee but also the general population in Clinton County."

The Board of Commissioners also gave approval to a study examining what changes the county would need to make if the Eagle Township mega site continues moving forward. The large-scale project has drawn some opposition from local residents

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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