Groveland Mine Solar project in development in Dickinson County

Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 6:35 PM EST
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RANDVILLE, Mich. (WLUC) - Sitting at the corner of Felch, Norway, and Sagola Townships, the former Groveland Mine site has sat vacant for 42 years.

It was operated from the early 1950s until 1981 under the ownership of the Hanna Mining Company.

“This was the place to work in Dickinson County back in the day. It was a steady job, with good money and benefits. Sad to say it came to a point where it was no longer feasible to process ore and sell pellets,” said Former Mine Employee Kevin Sundholm.

Now, the site is being developed into a solar farm by Circle Power Renewables. Ground-mounted solar arrays will be constructed on rocky and sandy terrain – the byproduct of the mining.

“We’ll have a labor force of two that will be in charge of doing the operations and maintenance of the project, but prior to that, we’ll have a staff of construction folks that will be here building the project. It will probably take about a year for this project to be built and we’ll spend about $20 million in local labor costs,” said Circle Power Vice President of Development Christopher Moore.

Moore said there will be no impact on surrounding areas. There will be continued access to Groveland ponds and all DNR roads and recreation sites will continue to be accessible.

“Originally, we had indicated that we were going to try and build solar on farmland but we’re not going to do that anymore. We were able to expand on the old, abandoned mine site so we aren’t putting any solar cells on any farmland in the area,” Moore said.

Circle Power Vice President of Public Affairs Elise Matz said the project will cost $100 million to build but will provide a bigger return.

“It will generate about $12.4 million in tax revenue in total for all local governments including Dickinson County, Felch, Norway and Sagola Townships and the school districts so that’s Norway, Vulcan, North Dickinson and the Dickinson/Iron ISD,” Matz said.

In fact, the company has created a legal contract in which the towns and schools are guaranteed tax revenue regardless of what the project costs to build.

“If the project ends up owing more if it costs more to build or if tax rates go up the project is going to be obligated to that, but this simply sets a floor and it’s really us demonstrating that when we say $12.4 million, we mean it,” Matz said.

The next step is for Circle Power to obtain permits from the three townships. Once the solar farm is constructed, Circle Power says it will provide power to the region for at least 30 years.

TV6 has reached out to opponents of the project but has not heard back.