The Power of UP Sunshine

By Jake Brown

When you think of bright shining sun, the Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP) isn’t exactly the first region to come to mind. Many know our area for its snow and winters, but the sun does come out, and that is where Marty Lagina with Heritage Solar saw an opportunity.

“The southern half of the Eastern Upper Peninsula is a lot like northern lower Michigan when it comes to solar potential,” said Lagina.

Rows of solar panels lining a field. The sunshine is shining on the solar panels.
Heritage Solar Farm in Pickford, MI

The potential for solar increases since solar generation efficiency improves with colder temperatures. This factor, combined with increased potential from sun reflection off our ever-abundant snowfall makes the EUP a great place to invest in solar generation. Identifying this opportunity, Heritage Solar, powered by Lagina, got to work with constructing a 7MW solar farm just outside of Pickford, Michigan.

This solar farm isn’t Lagina’s first project, either. He has been in the energy industry his entire career and has invested in multiple wind and solar generation opportunities.

“I believe in it,” said Lagina when discussing renewable energy generation, and he’s looking to do more.

Lagina has a few criteria he considers when determining new energy development projects. Among those criteria: a project must be fun, make economic sense and promote societal benefits. With those criteria in mind, Lagina sees ample opportunity for additional project development here in the EUP.

Cloverland purchases the power and energy from the solar farm through a long-term purchase agreement. Power and energy generated from the solar farm is sold by Cloverland into the wholesale electricity market until mid-2029, at which time the co-op plans to utilize the power and energy for its member needs. Due to Cloverland’s long term power supply contract, the co-op is not permitted to receive any power generated at the solar farm. However, that 2029 timing doesn’t mean it doesn’t benefit Cloverland members now. With hiring Pat Frazier as Cloverland’s Chief Operating Officer, the co-op added an experienced power supply expert to support the cooperative in generating positive revenues from the power and energy in the wholesale electricity market. Those positive revenues help to keep members’ rates low and stable in an otherwise volatile marketplace.

Solar facilities like Lagina’s are valuable assets as we move forward to a more demanding energy future. With the increase in electric vehicle usage and a movement to upgrade systems like heating and cooling to electric sources, Cloverland’s grid will need additional energy generation to meet demands. Solar, wind and additional base load generation like natural gas generation will be key to meeting the electric needs of residents in our region. Cloverland remains intently focused on monitoring the generation available and working to ensure its members have sustainable access to safe and reliable power.

Sun shining down on rows of solar panels in a hay field, Hay bales line the field next to the solar panels.
Heritage Solar Farm in Pickford, MI