New Laws Streamline Permitting for Michigan Renewable Energy Projects

Warner Norcross + Judd

Warner Norcross + Judd

On November 28, 2023, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law Michigan’s House Bill 5120 and House Bill 5121, which amend the Clean and Renewable Energy and Energy Waste Reduction Act and Zoning Enabling Act, respectively, to create a statewide permitting process for renewable energy facilities.

House Bill 5120 is intended to streamline permitting for renewable energy projects to make them easier to build in Michigan. The law applies to solar energy facilities with a nameplate capacity of 50 MW or more, wind energy facilities with a nameplate capacity of 100 MW or more, and energy storage facilities with a nameplate capacity of 50 MW or more and an energy discharge capability greater than 200 MW hours.

The new law creates a certification process through the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). The process would preempt local zoning or regulation of such facilities by setting specific siting standards for renewable energy projects, including:

  • Minimum setbacks.
  • Fencing and vegetative requirements.
  • Maximum height restrictions.
  • Maximum noise thresholds.

If the local government has a renewable energy ordinance that is compatible with (or no more restrictive than) the state siting standards, a developer must apply through the local government first. If the local government does not make a decision within 120 days, or denies the application, the developer can apply for a certificate with the Michigan Public Service Commission.

If the local government does not have a compatible renewable energy ordinance, the law allows a developer to apply with the Michigan Public Service Commission directly for a certificate. The application for a certificate must then undergo a contested case proceeding. The MPSC must make a decision on a certificate within one year of the application being filed and specify the requirements for granting a certificate.

The new law also encourages public participation, requires developers to consult with local and state stakeholders and work with local communities and includes a local benefit package for communities.

House Bill 5121 amends the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to make zoning ordinances subject to House Bill 5120.

HB 5120 will be effective one year after it was enacted. We will provide more updates once the MPSC promulgates regulations related to this new law or as we receive further clarity regarding the impact of this law.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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