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Michaud selected for U.S. Department of Energy grant to investigate utility-scale solar

Published: February 11, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Gilbert Michaud, assistant professor of practice at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, has been selected as a co-principal investigator on a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

The project, “Mapping and Bridging Barriers in Knowledge Flows of How Solar Photovoltaics Affect Rural Community Economies,” will study information flows regarding utility-scale solar projects in rural communities in the Great Lakes region. The project will also investigate the adoption of zoning policies, as well as quantify the economic and workforce impacts of utility-scale solar in rural areas. 

Michaud will first engage with communities and conduct interviews with various stakeholders, such as landowners, local officials and solar developers, to map knowledge flows among rural communities and learn about local decision-making processes.

“We want to better understand how information on utility-scale solar flows across rural communities, quantify how these projects will impact local economies and ultimately discern how stakeholders are making decisions regarding the approval and construction of projects,” Michaud said. “Our goal is to effectively disseminate our findings and offer solutions to address knowledge gaps as more and more rural communities continue to see large solar project proposals.”

In addition to Michaud, the project’s principal investigators are Michael Craig and Sarah Mills of the University of Michigan, as well as fellow co-principal investigators Steven Miller of the Michigan State University Extension and Hongli Feng of Iowa State University.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 funding program funds research projects that advance early-stage solar technologies to reduce the cost of solar, increase U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing, improve grid reliability and tackle emerging challenges in solar energy. Projects selected in the 2020 funding program are expected to improve solar technology efficiency, lower electricity costs, improve management of solar on the grid, enhance the flow of information to solar stakeholders and enable the pairing of solar with agriculture. 

In February 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would grant $130 million in funding for 55-80 research projects. Six projects – including Michaud’s – were selected to receive approximately $10 million for solar research through the Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies 3 (SEEDS 3) program.