The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a quiet, rural area where you can escape the busyness of urban cities. Population density is low in the Upper Peninsula (UP), making energy transmission costs high and causing electricity rates to be among the highest in the United States. In Baraga, 33.2% of residents live below the poverty line, and a reduction in electricity rates would make a significant difference to them.
Enter the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR), a local government organization that provides general planning and support for six western counties in the UP. Community leaders in Baraga and L’Anse areas of the UP view community solar as a solution to the cost and reliability issues surrounding electricity in the Keweenaw Bay region by bringing generation facilities closer to home. Community solar may help residents mitigate high prices and help neighboring communities toward self-sufficiency with their energy needs. To assist in determining the feasibility of community solar in Baraga, MI, a University of Michigan (U-M) Dow Sustainability Fellows team conducted a cost-benefit analysis in 2018. Based on this analysis, the team developed several interactive dashboards to aid the community. This cost-benefit analysis was a requirement of grant funding through WPPI Energy, a not-for-profit, regional power company serving 51 locally-owned electric utilities.