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How can Michigan prevent long-lasting power outages? Experts say solar power regulations need to change

Posted at 11:32 AM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 18:20:58-04

(WXYZ) — The battle is on to upgrade Michigan's aging power grid and prevent long-lasting power outages that have impacted thousands following storms in metro Detroit.

In Farmington Hills, Russell Cline said his family never imagined going a week without power as work continued earlier this week.

“I flagged somebody down. Brought them to my house and showed them I had three primary lines draped over the top of my garage," Cline said.

He lives in the area of 12 Mile and Middlebelt. He's among those who are forced to cope with an aging power grid and other growing challenges that go along with storms.

“More tree trimming needs to be taken care of, so when something like this happens," Cline said. He added that he's also tired of hearing excuses.

State Rep. Ranjeev Puri, who represents Farmington Hills and is on the House Energy Committee, is tasked with solving power outages.

"We are seeing more construction underground. That will continue to happen as we build out and modernize our infrastructure," Puri said.

That infrastructure also includes more renewable energy like wind and solar. Experts like Jayson Waller, the CEO of PowerHome Solar, said obstacles remain.

“Two percent of Michiganders can get solar energy. You’re basically saying you can’t get solar because we’re full and that cap is almost there," Waller said.

He added that now is the time for raising awareness, progress and passing of a bill that would grow the solar industry that is currently held back by outdated regulations.

“When you go solar, that doesn’t mean you’re not tied to the grid. That’s illegal. You still have grid power, but if you overproduce it flows like water and goes to your neighbor and the utility company sells it to them," he said. Waller said that a house bill aims to lift the cap.

House bill aimed at changing Michigan's solar energy rules by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

“What’s being done to make it more accessible here in Michigan?" Simon Shaykhet asked.

"We need to go all in. Michigan can’t move forward to a place where it’s normalized to lose power every time it rains," Puri responded.

DTE said they are proactively trimming more areas near power lines while looking at ways to improve at a time when many feel powerless.

“What’s your message to those who say Michigan is behind on how the grid functions and needs to do better?” Shaykhet asked.

“We’re going to be talking about the grid of the future, how we’ll continue to operate and how to deal with extreme weather getting worse and worse here,” Ryan Stowe of DTE said. “We’re going to invest a lot of money to help make that happen in the next few years.”

Waller tells us a big effort is still underway to make solar energy more accessible to people in Michigan. Lawmakers have a big role to play in that.