University of Michigan Energy CLUB install solar on Educate Youth club house

After learning about solar power from SolarYpsi, the Michigan Energy Club at the University of Michigan were motivated to accomplish their own solar installation. Reaching out to several non-profit organizations in Ypsilanti they connected with Gail Wolkoff, Founder and Executive Director of Educate Youth, an after-school program to increase graduation rates. “This project is a gift which will keep on giving for the next 30 years” said Gail Wolkoff. “Not only does the club house have solar panels, but the students who attend Educate Youth programs will learn about alternative energy and experience the benefits of solar power”.

After months of research, the Energy Club was able to design a system, collect quotes for the project, pull building, electrical, and historic district permits, and find the funding to make the project a reality. The solar contractor Distributed Power agreed to work with the students and together they successfully install the panels in January of 2020.

“This project is an excellent example of what can happen with you stop talking about what needs to be done, and just do it”, says Dave Strenski from SolarYpsi. The students took on the many challenges and worked with several outside parties to make this project happen. The project hopes to inspire others to install solar on their homes or businesses today. If you don’t have the funds or your roof is not suitable for solar power, then help some else put solar on their roof like the Energy Club accomplished.

Ypsilanti’s Educate Youth mission is to provide programming for Ypsilanti teens which will promote positive outcomes in all areas of life. We are committed to increasing the number of Ypsilanti students who receive a diploma, and for each graduate to have a post-high school plan, one student at a time.

The Michigan Energy Club is established to create a university-wide club that encourages and facilitates collaboration and education regarding technical aspects of energy developments. Through a variety of activities (projects, discussions, seminars, outreach events, competitions etc.), the Michigan Energy Club provides participating members with meaningful project-based learning and an atmosphere of edification and communal support for those individuals that share an interest in Energy and may furthermore hold long term goals of making an impact in this field.

You can find more information about this project on this SolarYpsi page.

Ypsilanti in American Cemetery and Cremation for the second time

Back in November of 2018 an article about Ypsilanti’s solar array in Highland Cemetery was published in American Cemetery and Cremation magazine. You can re-read that article here. Harvesting Perpetual Light http://www.solarypsi.org/CemCremArticle.pdf

Well it appears that Ypsilanti is not only a leader in solar power, but also a leader in solar power in cemeteries. American Cemetery and Cremation magazine wrote another article about solar in cemeteries and featured Highland Cemetery as a success story.

Let the Sun Shine In http://www.acm-digital.com/acm/january_2020/MobilePagedReplica.action?=undefined&pm=2&folio=16#pg19

SolarYpsi interviewed by ESAL

Engineers & Scientists Acting Locally (esal.us) is a national organization dedicated to increasing local engagement by professionals with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). My co-worker at Cray, Arti Garg, is the founder of ESAL and when I told her about SolarYpsi they decided to interview me for their blog. You can read it here. Enjoy.

SolarYpsi: A Grass-Roots Approach to Renewable Energy https://www.esal.us/blog/solarypsi/

Damn Squirrels!!!!

So I’m looking at the solar panels on our roof and notice a bunch of twigs, leaves, brush clumped up under the panels. I’ve seen this before in 2013 when we first installed the panels. A squirrels had built a nest under the panels. Not sure how long the squirrels stick around, because it can get quite hot under those panels. Thinking it was a squirrel nest, I got the ladder out and climbed up on the roof to evict the little critters. After clearing the nest I saw this.

Those buggers did some recreational chewing on my wires!!! Back down the ladder to get some electrical tape and zip ties. As I taped up this chewed wire I looked at the next panel and saw some more. I taped that one and found some more.

And then I saw this just laying on the roof.

They had chewed both ends and the wire (and connector) was just laying up there. Well now I know that at least one panel is NOT working so I pull out my phone and fire up the Enphase monitoring app and check the system. Damn!!! four panels are not working. I quit for the day, check my inventory of M4 connectors and wire, and made a plan to fix everything . After 5 hours of up and down the ladder on a Sunday afternoon, removing panels and micro-inverters carrying them down to the ground, splicing on new connectors and wire, and carrying them back up to reinstall, everything is working again. Here’s the extent of squirrel damage and my repairs.

The squirrel seem to enjoy chewing the negative wire more than the positive. Maybe just a coincidence. Since they are chewing only one wire at a time and likely at night, I don’t think they got a shock. Maybe if they had a wet tail and chewed the positive on a sunny day. There was one place where they chewed the trunk line and might have gotten to taste a few electrons.

We’re back to full power and I tried to zip tie the wires closer to the rails/panels to make it harder to chew. The nest is gone and I’ve been checking everyday for any signs of them coming back. One tip that saved some money is that I cut the leads of broken/bad micro-inverters/optimizes when I replace them. That gives me a 3 foot wire with one connector. Add a new M4 to the other side and makes a nice jumper cable for panels with chewed off wires!

Ypsilanti used as a case study for leading solar in Michigan

In 2017 the City of Ypsilanti was awarded a SolSmart Gold designation for its efforts in promoting solar power. You can read about that award here. Later, Ypsilanti also achieved special awards for our solar permitting, planning and market development. Being the first and only SolSmart award winner in Michigan the Solar Foundation has now made a case study about Ypsilanti to encourage other communities become solar ready. You can read about that here. Ypsi continues to strive for a 1000 solar roofs and becoming a solar destination.

Ypsilanti a “solar Leader” in Environment America report

Imaging my surprise when I opened the latest Environment America Shining Cities 2019 report and searched for Michigan. I wanted to see which Michigan cities were doing well in solar power and who did I find? Ypsilanti Michigan!

I’ve been saying for quite a while that Ypsilanti has been doing a great job with installing solar power and ranked in the top 20 of solar cities nationwide on a watt per capita basis. We’re still not listed in the top ranking found on page 7, but wait, we got our own paragraph on page 27 in the “Smaller Cities and Towns Are Going Big on Solar Energy” section.

While our watts per capita continues to grow, currently at (1,177,555 watts / 21,076 people) 55.6 watts/capita, the competition continues to install solar at a faster rate. If we were on today’s list, we would have dropped to 21st place. Bummer….. Come on follow Ypsilantians, let’s installing more solar!

Enjoy the report and see how we rank against other major cities in the US. We’re currently just behind San Francisco. If we could get the landfill project to move forward we would double our solar capacity. There are many large roofs on South Mansfield that could also easily double the amount of installed power. There are thousands of residential homes that could go solar. We may not get to 17 MW of solar power and make it to the #1 slot, but we could easily be in the top 10. Install solar on your home or business today.

Ypsilanti mentioned in Environment America’s Shining City 2019 report.

Department of energy recognizes Ypsilanti as a low-income solar empowerment zone

About two years ago the City of Ypsilanti partnered with Chart House Energy and SolarYpsi to enter the Department of Energy Solar in Your Community Challenge. While not winning any money from the challenge, Ypsilanti was recognized as a low-income solar empowerment zone.

https://mailchi.mp/95466c248a96/winners-announced?e=b78fba2d5c

Starting with 170 teams nationwide, 5 teams were awarded money and 12 teams, including Ypsilanti, were acknowledged for their efforts.

Low-Income Empowerment: Helping Communities Most in Need

  • Solar Pioneers (Brooklyn, NY) – This team increased local education and improved customer acquisition in two low-income communities, creating a training curriculum and empowering youth with the knowledge to be community ambassadors for solar. They installed 307 kW of solar.
  • Solar Destination Ypsilanti (Ypsilanti, MI) – This team deployed over 600 kW of solar, with 44% of it benefiting LMI, and plans to install almost 3 MW by late 2019 in an area where median household income is well below the U.S. average. Local residents were trained to perform solar installation and worked on projects.

This another great example of Ypsilanti on the national map for their efforts to become a Solar Destination. The city and local community has been tremendous in their support for solar power and the number of installations continues to grow. With over 55 watts per capita putting us in the top 20 in the nation for solar power.

Here’s video about our project. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-wbrxGES14

SolarYpsi would like to thank Chart House Energy for their support and helping to make this project successful. We also continues to seek funds to grow solar power even faster and bring it to the residents that need it the most. Let us know if you have any ideas.

New tax credits for solar projects in opportunity zones

On March 17th

Last year when congress passed the new tax credit, burred inside there was a tax incentive that can be applied to solar projects. This new tax incentive is complicated, but could add an additional 15% savings to the already 30% saving from the Federal Renewable Energy tax credit. Combined that about HALF OFF a solar installation in the “Opportunity Zone”. Last March 17th Rob Rafon and myself gave a talk about solar power and the tax credits. You can see a recording here. https://www.facebook.com/ypsi.live/videos/631640583960014

More information about this tax incentive and the Opportunity Zone map can be found here. https://esrimedia.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=77f3cad12b6c4bffb816332544f04542

WHAT ARE THE INCENTIVES THAT ENCOURAGE LONG-TERM INVESTMENT IN LOW INCOME COMMUNITIES? Opportunity Zones offer investors the following incentives for putting their capital to work in low-income communities:

  • A temporary tax deferral for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund. The deferred gain must be recognized on the earlier of the date on which the opportunity zone investment is sold or December 31, 2026.
  • A step-up in basis for capital gains reinvested in an Opportunity Fund. The basis of the original investment is increased by 10% if the investment in the qualified opportunity zone fund is held by the taxpayer for at least 5 years, and by an additional 5% if held for at least 7 years, excluding up to 15% of the original gain from taxation.
  • A permanent exclusion from taxable income of capital gains from the sale or exchange of an investment in a qualified opportunity zone fund, if the investment is held for at least 10 years. (Note: this exclusion applies to the gains accrued from an investment in an Opportunity Fund, not the original gains).

If you’re in the Opportunity Zone and want to install solar on your home, call a solar contractor today and see how they can help monetize these tax credits and lower the cost of solar.

Ypsilanti Wins Second Smart City Award

Last week, Ypsilanti’s Mayor Beth Bashert and SolarYpsi founder Dave Strenski traveled to Denver to collect a Smart 50 Award for a pair of solar projects in the City. The solar projects were unique in that we trained and hire local underemployed residents of Ypsilanti to preform the solar installations on their own low income housing building and on a city building. https://spring.smartcitiesconnect.org/Smart50Awards/

The name of our project was “Building Community with Solar Power”.

This was an amazing project and accomplished several goals all at the same time! First the non-profits that received the solar installation will start to save money by having a reduced electric bill. Then, after six years, the solar installation will be paid off and the organization will have free electricity. Second, low-income, underemployed residence learned how to install solar power along with OSHA fall protection and electrical safety training. Third, they were hire, at a living wage, to install the solar power on multiple buildings. Working alongside the solar contractor and members of the community built social bonds across demographics and made relationships that can help in the future. In fact, of the eight trained and hired workers, three got future work: one as a journeyman electrician, one as a roofer, and one with a local solar contractor. Lastly the community was very proud of this project and it created a lot of positive press for the City of Ypsilanti.

SolarYpsi presentation at the GLREA annual meeting

The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) hald their annual meeting at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse last December 8th. The meeting was great and had over 150 people attending. This also included a pre-meeting workshop where SolarYpsi was able to talk about their history and explain some of the techniques for promoting solar and getting systems installed.

For those that were not able to attend, we have a recording of the slide presentation here. Enjoy.