Union Township solar projects damages local roads

Construction of the 1,500-acre Union Township DTE Sauk Solar Farm caused $500,000 in damage to roads in the township, Branch County Road Commission Manager Jay Miller told his board Thursday.  

“There is a lot of heavy equipment traveling on Burlington Road. You can see the wear and tear and the damage that they’re doing,” Miller said. A culvert was crushed by heavy trucks. Some shoulders were damaged.  

Heavy equipment prepares the fields, then, heavy loads of metal posts and large crates of solar panels are trucked to each location.   

Boxes of solar panels ready for installation in a field off of County Line Road at the Sauk Solar Farm in Union township.

Only about 25% of the 1,500-acre, 150-megawatt solar farm is complete in the northeast corner of the unzoned township.   

Portions of Gower and Hayter asphalt roads also sustained damage, with some on the gravel roads portions.  

Miller patched the road for safety and will plan on paving them and replacing gravel when the project is over.   

Jay Miller

The manager sent letters and talked to DTE and contractor Barton-Malow detailing the costs and expected work.

Road commissioner chairman Bob Mayer said, “These are local roads. They are not built to have this much heavy traffic on them.” 

The manager said a significant issue is coming when a 250-ton electrical transformer arrives in the county. The load is too heavy and oversized for highway transportation and will come by rail in Coldwater.   

The large transformer necessary to put the generated solar power onto the grid lines will be trucked to the site on the county roads not built for that heavy a load.  

Completed solar panel installation off Burlington Road in Union Township.

Miller is also anticipating issues on Lockwood Road over the next year.  

Bethel Township Zoning Administrator Matt Ashenfelter said Branch Solar LLC received a construction permit for its 200-megawatt solar farm on 1,546 acres along Lockwood Road.  

Work will begin either this fall or early next spring.  

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