Butterworth Solar

Submissions closed on December 29, 2023, 05:00 PM

Butterworth Landfill Aerial

We are seeking partners to help us develop cost-effective solar on the Butterworth Landfill, a ~190-acre closed and fully remediated EPA Superfund site located southwest of downtown, directly adjacent to the Grand River on the south and east sides and the John Ball Neighborhood on the north side. Our desired outcome is to successfully deploy solar across Butterworth Landfill, in a way that fully maximizes social, environmental and financial benefits locally that is partially, if not completely, operational in 2026. With this project, we want to supply clean renewable electricity to both the City's primary circuit and other potential partners.  

We are excited to invite eligible entities to respond by 5p.m. EST on Friday, December 29, 2023 to a request for information / request for qualifications (RFI/RFQ)(PDF, 2MB) (two additional appendices are available under the additional information area below) to help us develop solar at Butterworth. Eligible entities are limited to those that have had experience installing solar with at least one of the following: at an EPA Superfund site, brownfield and/or closed landfill; serving a locally owned and operated electricity distribution system similar to the City's primary circuit; and in Consumers Energy's electricity territory or, more generally, in the state of Michigan. After all RFI/RFQ responses are reviewed, we will invite select RFI/RFQ respondents to participate in an in-person workshop intended to inform the creation of a request for proposals (RFP). Only respondents to this RFI/RFQ will be eligible to respond to a future Butterworth Solar RFP.  

We are working hard to tackle energy as a top priority in our operations. Help us make a difference by joining our forts and see how you too can be smarter with your energy at home or at work. All communication with respect to this RFI/RFQ must be submitted to butterworthsolar@grcity.us. Only information submitted to this email address will be considered for purposes of this RFI/RFQ. The tentative draft schedule, which is subject to change as needed, is:

  • Week of Nov. 27: site visit
  • Dec. 5 from 1-2pm: virtual Q&A session
  • Dec. 11: deadline for questions (5 p.m. EST)
  • Dec. 20: all answers to submitted questions posted online
  • Dec. 29: RFI/RFQ responses due (5 p.m. EST)

Answers to Submitted RFI/RFQ Questions

Please find a copy of all answered questions submitted by the deadline for the RFI/RFQ along with five supporting exhibits under the "Additional Information" area below.

The Butterworth Landfill is a ~ 190-acre site containing a former landfill closed in the early 1970s and placed on the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List in 1986. Subsequently, a final consent decree was issued in 1999 and the Site was fully remediated in 2000. It is located southwest of downtown, directly adjacent to the Grand River on the south and east sides and the John Ball Neighborhood on the north side. John Ball Neighborhood is one of Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods of focus – defined as census tracts with the highest percent of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color residents and the greatest disparities across all quality-of-life indicators (education, wealth, jobs, etc.).

The Site is regulated by the EPA and includes a consent decree with all identified responsible parties.  The City owns about 145 acres of the former landfill. Remediation under the consent decree includes a four-foot clay cap and groundwater monitoring wells sited primarily along the perimeter of the capped areas. Any future development must be fully consistent with the Site’s remedial features and institutional controls to ensure long-term access to and protection of the Site’s remedies. The Site does not generate enough methane for recapture.

Since remediation was completed in 2000, the Site has been maintained as an open grass area with walking paths along the perimeter and an access road through the center providing access to the river for public safety agencies.

The City’s Primary Circuit is a 12,470/7200 volt electrical distribution system that the City owns and operates. The Primary Circuit received 19,285,000 kilowatt hours of electricity from Consumers Energy in 2022 and distributed it to 18,000 streetlights, traffic signals, and approximately 120 facilities throughout the city.

The City’s commitment to renewable energy began in 2005 with the establishment of a 20% municipal renewable energy goal. The City surpassed this goal by sourcing 30% renewable energy in 2007 and increased the goal to 100%. The City’s current renewable energy goal for government operations is to achieve 100% by the end of FY2025. As of 2022, 44.4% of the electricity consumed by City operations was produced from renewable energy. This renewable energy is sourced from the purchase of renewable energy credits through Consumers Energy’s renewable portfolio and two on-site solar installations (Oak Industrial Drive and Lake Michigan Filtration Plant). The City partnered with a private developer to install nearly one megawatt of on-site ground-mounted solar that is 100% behind-the-meter at the Lake Michigan Filtration Plant, which became operational in June of 2022. The City’s most significant on-site renewable energy generation opportunity exists at Butterworth Landfill.

The City is interested in two solar projects for the Butterworth Landfill. The first project, which is the highest priority, is a solar system that maximizes behind-the-meter delivery to the City’s Primary Circuit. The second project would utilize the remainder of the site for an independent solar project that would cost-effectively maximize local benefits and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. For more information on these two projects, please refer to the RFI/RFQ.

The City's Primary Objectives:

  1. Supply the optimal amount of solar-powered electricity to the City’s Primary Circuit, beginning in CY2026.
  2. Maximize utilization of the remainder of the Site for installation of solar that can support other potential off-takers in a way that maximizes local GHG reduction impacts. 
  3. Maximize direct benefits for the Grand Rapids community (emissions reductions, air pollution reduction, affordability, electrification, jobs, etc.).
  4. Demonstrate innovative approaches to deployment of solar in conjunction with additional beneficial reuse (i.e. distributed storage/resiliency, parking, recreation, interpretive/educational uses)  
  5. Leverage as much external funding as possible, including but not limited to federal, state, philanthropic and private dollars to support solar at Butterworth.

The City's Aspirational Desires:

  1. To devise and implement solutions that might effectively supply green power to the City’s Primary Circuit 24 hours per day.
  2. To incorporate at least 10 acres of solar-over-parking that can support the needs of downtown service workers and venues. 
  3. To incorporate solutions that support low-income and disadvantaged communities within Grand Rapids. 

There are many reasons why solar development at Butterworth has been delayed. Some of the biggest obstacles include: 

  • Michigan law requires that on-site solar constructed behind-the-meter (not delivered by Consumers Energy transmission lines) serve electricity on the site where it is created or a site immediately adjacent to the site of the installation. No large viable adjacent properties have been identified.
  • MPSC approved CE’s requested DG rate where excess electricity generated on-site and placed onto CE’s grid is only reimbursed/credited an amount established by the locational marginal price (LMP). The LMP has historically consistently hovered around $0.03 per kilowatt hour.
  • Michigan law does not currently include or permit “community solar.”  However, Consumers Energy has included Solar Gardens as a part of their MPSC approved Voluntary Green Pricing Program. Their Solar Garden program allows electric customers to pay a subscription fee to participate and receive bill credits for the market value of the solar produced from designated Solar Gardens. Consumers Energy currently operates three Solar Gardens (GVSU, Cadillac, WMU).
  • Constructing solar on a capped landfill requires ballasted solar panels and above-ground conduit for electrical infrastructure, consideration of heavy equipment and other potential disturbances during construction, and other measures which significantly increase the cost of the installation.
  • Constructing solar on a capped landfill that is a U.S. Superfund site includes risks not present with other landfill, brownfield or greenfield developments. This is expected to increase the costs.
  • Recognizing the large, estimated expense of the project, staff have been working to identify and secure external funding.
  • The capacity of the City’s primary circuit, which is a City owned and operated distribution system that supplies electricity (purchased from Consumers) to the City’s 18,000 streetlights, traffic signals and 100 facilities can only support receiving an amount of behind-the-meter electricity that would be generated by a 1-2 MW array. In addition, more than 50% of the primary circuit’s demand occurs at nighttime (lighting), which does not align with when solar electricity is generated.
  • The cost of utility-scale battery storage historically has been cost prohibitive. 

Around 2015, the City issued a request for proposals to construct a small 2-3 megawatt (MW) array on the southwest corner of the Site with the goal of supplying electricity (over or under the river) to the City’s Water Resource Recovery Facility. While a developer was identified, the effort was ultimately abandoned due to insolvency of the development partner.