DS News regularly covers the challenges posed by “zombie homes,” abandoned properties stuck in a sort of foreclosure limbo and often falling into disrepair in the meantime. But even once a property has been dragged out of that mire, that doesn’t mean it’s always just headed back onto the market. What happens when government entities complete a tax foreclosure on a property that isn’t likely to be worth rehabbing? According to officials in Michigan, the answer might just be: help save the planet.
As reported by Energy News Network (ENN), government officials in Michigan are considering a unique approach when it comes to disposing of tax-foreclosed properties acquired by a state land bank, many of which are described as “undesirable due to contamination.” So, what’s the big idea for dealing with these seemingly unusable properties? Converting them into solar farms.
Calhoun County Treasurer Brian Wensauer, chairman of the land bank program, told ENN that “if there’s blight or environmental issues, no one wants them and we get stuck with them.”
Converting those properties for renewable energy purposes could provide a green solution that causes very little disruption to the land, according to Josh Burgett, Director of Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority.
Solar conversion isn’t a workable solution for every property—ENN reports that Michigan officials have so far only identified 40 properties that look to be good candidates for renewable energy usage. For “contaminated” properties, however, much less cleanup would be required in order to convert them into solar farms than to make them ready for traditional reuse.
When it comes to figuring out what to do with foreclosed properties that are contaminated or blighted beyond the point where the private market has any interest in stepping in, Michigan’s state land banks collaborate with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to determine a course of action. Since 2003, Michigan’s state land bank has “spent about $85 million on blight elimination and demolitions,” Burgett told ENN.
According to data from the industry group SolarPower Europe, the global solar market grew 29.3 percent in 2017. Although President Trump’s imposition of tariffs on solar equipment have hampered growth recently, the industry still “saw growth accelerate in 25 of the 44 states the Solar Energy Industries Association tracks,” as reported by CNBC.
To read Energy News Network’s full story about Michigan’s exploration of converting tax-foreclosed properties into solar farms, click here.