Tag Archives: solar

The Emergence of Grass-Roots Solar Initiatives

From guest blogger Ryan Tollefsen in Anchorage Alaska.

With the interest in solar power, groups are forming to make solar energy more affordable. Individual homeowners and commercial property owners, having taken keen interest in other green technologies like sustainable building materials, may want to switch to solar but may find it difficult to get details on solar power in their area or get an initial site analysis of their home or property. Grass-roots solar initiatives have popped up to address concerns and questions and help individuals interested in solar power use
collective bargaining power for additional discounts and to simplify the process.

Get more details about grass-roots initiatives in Maine and NY and learn more about additional support for residents in your area today.

Initiatives in Freeport

Solarize Freeport is one group that has formed that may serve to make clean energy more accessible and affordable. The aim of this group is to create a buying club and purchase in bulk to reduce the cost of solar systems. Residents are pooling resources to meet this objective. The idea is not new as pooling resources has been done in Maine by farmers and fishing co-ops in the past.

During a town hall meeting, people learned that the cost of an average solar system for residential use can be reduced by about a third when taking into account factors such as bulk buying and federal tax breaks. The system will pay for itself in 10 years and can provide free electricity for another 20 to 30 years. As energy suppliers regularly raise prices, a source of consistent low-cost energy is a great attraction. In addition, solar energy can work in areas that are cold and moderately sunny. Germany is the leading solar producer and Maine has a similar climate to that area. The community in Augusta, Maine is looking into ways to help more households afford and benefit from solar energy.

Here Comes Solar Community Initiative

Residents may have a hard time getting questions answered and even having a company do a site assessment to determine viability for a solar panel system. Adel Sarhan of Park Slope found this to be the case when he reached out for estimates to installers in the area. Sarhan was interested in going solar to support the environment and to benefit from expiring incentives. His initial experience left him discouraged.

He came across Solar One’s Here Comes Solar community initiative. The organization provides free site assessments and then once they have three to 10 homeowners in an area
interested in moving forward, projects are bundled together and bids are solicited from pre-vetted solar installers. The group then chooses one of the installers to complete the projects. Sarhan is part of one network of 5 homeowners. The system he chose will cost more than $28,000 but after state and federal tax credits, rebates and a city property tax abatement, will end up costing approximately $7,500. Initiatives such as this can make it easier to recoup initial purchasing and installation costs and provide homeowners with more leverage when it comes to finding, pricing and installing a solar system from a reputable installer.

Authorities Supporting Grass-root Initiatives

Additional resources may be available in New York and other areas. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is available to work with such initiatives to increase adoption of solar energy for residential use. Additional campaigns from Here Comes Solar are helping commercial and residential property owners to receive a discount over a set period of time. Sustainable CUNY offers a NYC Solar Map to assist residents in New York in understanding whether or not a building may be a candidate for solar energy. Sustainable CUNY also helps in addressing any permitting issues. The SolSmart program from The Solar Foundation offers free technical assistance to towns, counties and cities looking to improve accessibility to and affordability of solar power. [Ypsilanti was awarded a Gold status SolSmart award.]

Benefits of Cost-Sharing

New cost-sharing models may serve to reduce the “soft costs” of going solar. It may make it easier for residential and commercial property owners to get initial property
assessments and create a better system for more efficiency when it comes to zoning issues or permitting of properties in urban areas. Those taking part in these new initiatives and who get site analysis are much more likely to have a solar system installed than individual homeowners looking for an installer on their own.

It appears that the demand for solar coupled with additional support has made it possible for small group initiatives to make headway in providing information and potential
discounts for those who choose to commit to going solar. As more prospective homeowners learn of solar initiatives in their area, the trend may continue to grow.

Ypsi Fire Station gets 50kW of Solar Power

Saturday was a beautiful day and we had about a dozen volunteers show up for the Ypsi  Fire Station solar installation. It was done in about seven hours! Thanks to the Ypsi Fire Department and DPW for moving the material to the roof. We had volunteers from Ypsi, Ann Arbor, and St.Louis. They ranged in age from 20 to 70 years old. Their skills varied from novice to profession solar installers. Having all the material on the roof made the job go fast. Everyone had fun and seem to enjoy themselves. As the old saying goes, “Many hands make light work”. It was like an Amish barn raising for solar power. We now have 50kW on our local Fire Station. The solar contractor, John Wakemen, is wiring it up this week and we hope to have it wrapped up in a few weeks.  Pictures posted at SolarYpsi and many volunteers posted more on FaceBook.

Fire Station Solar Installation
Fire Station Solar Installation

Ypsilanti in the Lead for Installed Solar Power

Today on WEMU I heard that Ann Arbor announced that they want to be a “Solar Ready” city, Ann Arbor Wants To Become A ‘Solar Ready’ Community”. What’s interesting is the article says they currently have about 150kW of installed solar. I always wondered how much solar power our neighbors to the west had installed.

“As part of the city’s climate action plan, the council is considering approving a resolution to make Ann Arbor a “solar ready community.” They want to generate 24 megawatts by the year 2025. Council member Chip Smith from the 5th ward says right now that number is about 150 kilowatts a year.”

I checked the SolarYpsi map today and Ypsilanti has 184.6 kW of installed solar! This is pretty impressive for a city 1/5th the size.

solarypsi

In the spirit of friendly competition, I encourage all Ypsilantian to call a solar contractor today and get a quote for your home. The typical home needs about 5kW to be 100% solar powered, but something as small at 3kW can still make economic sense. At about $3/watt installed, so a 3kW system could cost about $10,000 and you’ll get 30% of that back on your Federal taxes.

SolarYpsi is also seeking funds to make solar rebates through the City. If anyone has any leads on philanthropic people/organizations that would be willing to fund a solar rebate project, please contact me.

Install some solar on your home today and keep Ypsilanti in the lead.

SolarYpsi gets a New Installation Page

As the number of solar installations grows in Ypsilanti and on the SolarYpsi website, it was getting harder to organize the data and cross checking the data to make sure everything was correct. (This is a GOOD problem!) Also, with the SolarYpsi.org developer, Nik Estep, moving on to other projects we needed to find a new developer and give them the task of making a new SolarYpsi installation page.

Introducing Josh Taylor from SAMSA. SAMSA is a web development company located in downtown Ypsilanti. SolarYpsi hired Josh to make some changes to the internals of the SolarYpsi website and to create a new “Installation” page for the website. Josh did a great job very quickly. The new page (screen shot below) now allows the visitor to sort the solar installations on the Name, Panel type, Inverter type, Installer, Wattage, Number of pictures, or the Video link. This make it quick to navigate the many different types of solar installations and also makes it easy for SolarYpsi to look for errors in the descriptions. Go ahead and clink the link to check it out.

SolarYpsi Installation Page

Please post any feedback to the new page layout in the comments. We can consider them for the next set of updates. If you’re walking around Ypsi’s downtown, wave to Josh through the windows at 7 S. Washington. (and look at the latest solar installation in progress at the Growing Hope Farmer’s Market.)

SolarYpsi_Install_Page

SolarYpsi on Michigan Radio’s Next Idea

SolarYpsi was featured on Michigan Radio’s “Stateside with Cynthia Canty” Next Idea. You can read their blog posting and hear the interview here.

What about donating solar power to Michigan non-profits?

Please let me know if you know of a donor willing to fund a solar project in Ypsilanti. I can pair them up with a non-profit(s) to install solar power on their building and lower their operating costs.

SolarYpsi 2015 Year in Review

2015 was another record year for solar installations in Ypsilanti with 8 new locations. Most of these came from our wonderful anonymous donor who funded solar projects on six non-profits in town. These locations included the Ypsi District Library, Parkridge Community Center, Ypsi Senior Center, Washtenaw International High School (WiHi), the Corner Health Center, and the Ypsi Department of Public Services (DPS on Forest). Add to this a couple of residential solar installations, and we’re climbing our way to a 1000 solar roofs.

SolarYpsi_Graph

While we’re only at 33 solar installations so far, Ypsilanti made a lot of progress towards a large solar farm in town. When DTE announced plans for a large solar installation near the Ann Arbor airport, the community rallied and started asking questions about the proposed solar installation for the City-owned property near exit 183 on I94. With over 800 signatures on a petition asking DTE to reevaluate Ypsilanti for a large solar installation, they found a suitable
location on the north end of town in the Highland Cemetery. So far, everything is on track for this project to start in the spring.

The Mott Foundation funded a report looking at the state of renewable energies in the State of Michigan and Ypsilanti was one of seven communities they investigated. The report showed that Ypsilanti had the most solar installations of all the communities! You can see the report here.

Eastern Michigan University continues to send students to learn about solar power first hand and several term papers have been written about solar power in Ypsilanti.

The SolarYpsi.org website continues to grow with a total of 63 locations on the website. If you haven’t seen the aerial videos that Cameron Getto has been putting together, you can check them out here. They are amazing!

SolarYpsi gave 17 face-to-face presentations in 2015 reaching another 282 people first hand and answering questions. These included one-on-one meetings with home owners and large events like the National Solar Tour and the annual Michigan Energy Fair.

Ypsilanti now has 173,635 watts of installed solar power or (173,635/19,809) 8.7 watts per capita. While this is still a tiny number, if we add in the proposed 800kW solar installation at the cemetery we’ll have (973,635/19,809) 49.1 watt per capita. If we can get a few more watts installed, we’ll be one of Environment America’s Shining Cities with over 50 watts per capita.

The only sad news this year was that our long time developer of the SolarYpsi.org website is moving on to new opportunities, and we need to find a new web developer.

Here’s to another banner year for solar power in 2016 bringing Ypsilanti closer to becoming a Solar Destination!

Double Dipping Your Year End giving

Solar-Home

As most of you know, SolarYpsi has not incorporated nor a 501(c)3, so we can’t directly receive any year end donations. However, I would like to suggest to everyone a way to “Double Dip” on your charitable contributions this year. Consider giving the gift of solar power instead of cash to your favorite charity.

Whether you love animal shelters, food banks, health centers, farmer’s markets, or any other organization doing great work, instead of giving cash consider giving a solar donation. This way you help both the charitable organization and grow solar power in our community.

Ask the organizations you support if they have solar power or would consider installing solar power on their building. Ask them if you can give a directed donation to go towards a solar installation on their building. If the organization needs help understanding solar power, SolarYpsi can help explain solar power and help them design a system for their building.

If we assume the receiving organization uses the same amount of power as a typical Michigan home of 600 kWh per month, a 5000 watt solar installation would make them 100% solar powered. A solar contractor should be able to install a typical system for about $3/watt, so a project would cost the organization about $15,000. Just yesterday I looked at my DTE bills for 2015 and added up all my charges and divide it by all the power I purchased and I’m paying about $0.19/kWh. This 5000 watt installation would make (20 kWh/day * $0.19/kWh * 365 days) $1,387 worth of power per year. A $15,000 donation for a solar installation would actually give the organization a minimum of $41,610 worth of power over the next 30 years.

The gift of solar power is the gift that keeps on giving and can supply power to an organization for the next 30 years! This frees up operations funds for doing more good in our community.