With help from Michigan farmers, we’ve planted the seeds for a brighter energy future in the lush green fields northwest of Battle Creek, where a nearly defunct dairy farm will soon produce both solar power and renewable natural gas.
We originally bought nearly 3,000 acres at the Spring Creek farm straddling Calhoun and Barry counties as part of a plan to build a utility-scale solar power plant.
Rather than shutter the farm’s existing dairy operations, we’ve partnered with Swisslane Farms, a large dairy farm near Grand Rapids, to keep the business running and provide fuel for a new biodigester to convert into clean, renewable natural gas, or RNG.
Combining solar and RNG on the same site will create a first-of-its-kind “Agri Energy Center” in Southwest Michigan.
“Our plan to serve Michigan with cleaner electricity and natural gas will soon become a reality at one location,” said David Hicks, vice president of clean energy development. “Farmers are helping us lead the clean energy transformation by harvesting the sun’s energy and recycling waste to produce renewable natural gas. Best of all, these projects ? much like added crops ? create revenue for landowners and can help the community fund education and other basic services.”
Two Projects, One Vision
Though they’re on separate timelines, the Spring Creek solar and RNG projects are both part of our plan to meet Michigan’s future energy needs with cleaner, renewable resources while cutting greenhouse gas emissions to protect the environment we all cherish.
- The Spring Creek solar facility is part of the 8,000-megawatt solar buildup proposed in our Clean Energy Plan, a 20-year blueprint to eliminate coal, give customers more control to reduce energy waste and dramatically boost the amount of electricity we generate from clean, renewable sources. We plan to own and run the project, which would begin operation in 2026, producing up to 140 megawatts of clean electricity ? enough power for about 25,000 homes. Learn more about our solar plans and how they benefit Michigan farmers and communities here.
- The Spring Creek biodigester will capture methane from the decomposition of cow manure through anaerobic digestion, then clean and condition it to produce RNG, which is safely delivered to customers through existing pipelines in our vast distribution network. We could begin producing RNG as soon as 2025.
What is RNG?
RNG is renewable fuel, interchangeable with conventional natural gas. Produced from organic wastes and other renewable sources, it can help heat Michigan homes, power stoves and dry grain for farmers. RNG is a key technology available to reduce methane emissions, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.
RNG is a key piece of our pledge to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from our entire natural gas and production system ? including customers and suppliers ? by 2050. As a next step on our path to net zero by 2050, the company will partner with customers to reduce their emissions by 20 percent by 2030.
More Than a Farm
We’re also partnering with Swisslane on an RNG biodigester at its primary location in Alto.
Swisslane Farms has been in the Oesch family since 1915 when current chief executive officer Matt Oesch’s great-grandfather bought it. Today, the dairy farm is boldly leading the way into the 21st century by piloting production of renewable natural gas.
As a farm owned by the same family for more than 100 years, Swisslane is part of the state’s Centennial Farm program ? supported by the Consumers Energy Foundation.
“This is not just a farm,” Oesch said. “This is not just a business. This is our heritage.”
Swisslane Farms has won the national Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award from the Innovation Center for the U.S. The farm also runs Dairy Discovery, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the West Michigan community about the integrity of production practices and benefits of technology use in the dairy industry. To learn more, visit SwissLaneFarms.com.