DNR to Lease Abandoned Crawford Co. Gravel Pit Into Massive Solar Farm

The Department of Natural Resources and a renewable energy company in southeast Michigan are hoping to turn an abandoned gravel pit in Crawford County into a massive solar farm.

“We think it’s a win, win all the way around,” says Scott Whitcomb, senior advisor for wildlife and public lands for the MDNR.

For years, the DNR has used the 7 Mile Gravel Pit in Beaver Creek Township as a shooting range and for general public use.

“Folks maybe go there for target practice or things like that, but it’s not a very productive use of the land,” says Whitcomb.

That’s why the DNR is hoping to turn this 169-acres of dirt into something more productive, like  a solar farm.

“It’s novel for us, we’ve had the big utility companies like Consumers or DTE; they’re approaching us saying we want to build these renewable energy facilities, we need the state to do it and since the state’s the biggest landowner in Michigan,” says Whitcomb.

Circle Power is a renewable energy company based in southeast Michigan.

Over the next few years Circle Power will be surveying the land and see if they can connect to the grid, potentially producing 50-100 megawatts of energy.

Jordan Roberts, Co-founder of Circle Power, says, “When we walk into a situation like 7-mile pit where there seems to be pretty broad support locally to do something more productive with that land, for us that’s perfect. It’s a really excited opportunity.”

The solar farm could also benefit local property taxes and energy costs.

Beaver Creek Treasurer, Max Meismer says, “Hopefully by more supply in the pipeline of electricity, it will help drive down electrical costs because our electrical costs around here are unusually high.”

Circle Power says if everything goes well, they hope to finish in the next three to four years.