Tag Archives: SolarYpsi

The Ypsilanti Food Cooperative – A Solar PV Pioneer

Fifteen years ago the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative installed four 190 watt solar panels on the roof of their building and a 1800 watt Sunny Boy inverter. This was the birth of SolarYpsi, which would later help the City of Ypsilanti go from zero to 1.4 MW of solar power today. That initial system costs about $7.90/watt and was installed by volunteers. Today a solar installation cost as low as $2.50/watt when done by a contractor and even lower when done with volunteers.

The initial system cost $6000 and was funded by a grant from the State of Michigan. Not knowing what we we’re doing and in a bit of a hurry, we placed the panels right next to the chimney that blocks the sunlight on the right panel every morning.

Part of the grant was to give solar presentations to talk about the project and encourage others to install solar power. Later, we started to make a few dollars giving talks and that funded a fifth panel. With the fifth panel we also moved the panels in front of the chimney removing the shadow.

Winning a second and third grant from the State of Michigan we expanded the initial system to 12 panels, 2.3kW, added 6kW on the bakery roof and 2.5kW on the back of City Hall. With the addition of these seven new panels, we need to get a bigger inverter, so we sold the 1800 watt Sunny Boy on eBay and bought a new Sunny Boy 2100 watt inverter. A typical system today is 5kW or larger, so this initial system on the Ypsi Food Co-op is quite small in comparison.

Here’s Dayna flipping on the solar installation. The solar DC disconnect is on the right, the 1800 watt Sunny Boy is in the middle and one of the store’s breaker panels is located on the left. In these early days we were also using energy viewers to measure the power entering the store, leaving the store, and being generated with live displays on a wall in the store. Customers enjoyed “seeing” the solar power being generated. Later we figured out how to read the utility meters directly and made real time graphs of the power.

Another thing we learned along the way is that inverters (at least the older ones) make a slight buzzing noise when operating, so when we expanded the system we put the new 2100 watt Sunny Boy outside. Here’s a picture of the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative store manager, Corinne Sikorski, next to the DC disconnect and inverter as they sit today. At the time we were not sure about how rain would effect the inverter so we built a cute small copper roof to keep the rain off.

It’s a bit hard to read, but here’s the display showing the 5.6 years of runtime on the inverter. The manufacturing tag shows it was made in January of 2007.

SolarYpsi has had a wonderful 15 years helping people understand solar power, designing solar installations, and organizing volunteers to install many solar installations around town. It all started at the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative with four Sanyo panels and an SMA Sunny Boy inverter. SolarYpsi still calls it home today.

Here a short review of some of our accomplishments.

Time lapse and aerial videos of solar installations around town
Video that Google made about SolarYpsi
TEDxEMU talk about solar power in Ypsilanti
Final video from the Solar in your Community challenge

Building a Solar Community at a Michigan Fire Station
Finally Walking my Solar Talk
Anonymous Donor Funds Six Solar Installations
Harvesting Perpetual Light
Let the Sun Shine In, Cemeteries Turn to Solar for Power and Income

City of Ypsilanti selected for Smart 50 Award
City of Ypsilanti awarded SolSmart Gold Designation
Ypsilanti shining the Way for Solar Power

Review Deja vu – Solar Ypsi

Solar presentations
Presentation at Landline Creative Labs
Presentation at The Ypsi
Presentation at the Ypsilanti District Library with Spanish Translation

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.

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.

History of Solar Presentation by SolarYpsi

I was updating our database of solar presentations they we have given over the years. In the past 12 years we have given a total of 255 solar presentations and reach over 5400 people in face-to-face meetings. Many as small as one person at the local coffee shop to over a hundred at a weekend festival, farmer market, or events like TEDx and Ignite. I calculate our average at about 20 people per event. Here’s the list (below) if you want to check the math. Drop me a note ([email protected]) if you would like me to visit your organization and talk about how solar power can save you money.

Date Origanization Count
Jan # 2006 Co-op Open House 40
Feb # 2006 Depot Town Association 10
Mar # 2006 Washtenaw County Consortium on Waste Management 12
Mar 11 2006 Ypsilanti City Council & Historic Commission 10
May 10 2006 Metro Detroit Building Superintendent Assocation 20
Jul 17 2006 ReCycle Ann Aror 6
Jul 29 2006 ReCycle Ann Arbor 8
Aug 17 2006 Corner Brewery 80
Oct 7 2006 Solar Tour 10
Nov 29 2006 Optical Society of America 40
Dec 6 2006 Ann Arbor Computer Society 31
Dec 21 2006 Cray TechForum (remote) 12

2006 Total of 12 meetings reaching 279 people

Jan 17 2007 Pittsfield Union Grange (Dave and Adam) 15
Jan 24 2007 Ypsilanti District Library 25
Jan 26 2007 ReCycle Ann Arbor (Adam) 3
Mar 9 2007 Estabrook 4th grade class (Adam) 24
Mar 16 2007 Remodel Green Midwest Conference 33
Apr 18 2007 GREEN at EMU (Adam) 6
Apr 18 2007 Science Cafe 31
Apr 24 2007 Waste Not meeting 63
Jun 2 2007 U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens 10
Aug 14 2007 Ypsilanti City Council Meeting 44
Aug 18 2007 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival (Adam) 7
Sep 8 2007 The Treehouse Energy Efficency 10
Sep 18 2007 Ypsilanti Public Library 4
Sep 26 2007 Summers-Knoll School 5th grade class 11
Oct 6 2007 Solar Tour 20
Oct 14 2007 Healing Arts and Green Living Expo 3
Nov 7 2007 Normal Park Neighborhood Assocation 11

2007 Total of 17 meetings reaching 320 people

Mar 15 2008 Ypsilanti Food Cooperative 7
Mar 27 2008 UM Earth Day (Adam and I were rained out) 0
Apr 17 2008 WCC Earth Day: Celebrate our Habitat! 30
Apr 22 2008 Cenrtal Region Co-op Manager’s meeting 19
Jun 2 2008 Estabrook School, Ypsilanti (Adam) 144
Jul 12 2008 Ann Arbor Reuse Center 40
Aug 15 2008 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival 16
Aug 30 2008 Layed off Auto engineers 2
Sep 22 2008 Wittenberg University 37
Sep 23 2008 University Michigan 18
Sep 23 2008 Washtenaw Community College 15
Oct 4 2008 Solar Tour 16
Oct 29 2008 Crazy Wizdom one-on-one 1

2008 Total of 13 meetings reaching 345 people

Jan 30 2009 Crazy Wizdom Book Store 3
Mar 9 2009 Transition Michigan 5
Mar 24 2009 Ypsi School Dist,Assistant Superintendent staff 6
Apr 16 2009 WCC Earth Day. 17
Apr 24 2009 One-on-one solar talk with Hans 1
May 30 2009 Ypsi Food Coop (Hans) 3
Jun 3 2009 Estabrook School (Adam) 137
Jul 25 2009 Whole Foods Ann Arbor @ 1:00pm (Hans) 5
Aug 5 2009 Ann Arbor Computer Society (Dave+Nik) 19
Aug 6 2009 Ann Arbor District Library (Hans) 21
Aug 14 2009 Whole Foods Rochester Hills @ 12:00 (Hans) 8
Aug 21 2009 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival 7
Oct 10 2009 Solar Tour 14
Oct 17 2009 Ypsilanti District Library 11
Nov 19 2009 Elwell School “Green Expo” 12

2009 Total of 15 meetings reaching 269 people

Apr 22 2010 Canton Public Library 4
Aug 26 2010 Rebuild Ypsilanti – Ypsilanti District Library 50
Aug 31 2010 Dawn Farms one-on-one w/ Brian Ellison 1
Oct 2 2010 SolarTour – Ypsi Food Coop 12
Oct 2 2010 SolarTour – City Hall 11
Oct 7 2010 Concentrate in Ann Arbor 50
Oct 22 2010 EMU Student – Giles Tucker 1

2010 Total of 7 meetings reaching 129 people

Feb 7 2011 Ypsi Food Coop 10
Apr 20 2011 Ypsi Food Coop – staff 9
Apr 22 2011 Ypsi Food Coop – staff 11
Jun 2 2011 Ypsi DDA 8
Jun 14 2011 Lias and Beth 2
Jun 20 2011 Ypsilanti library (Google video) 25
Aug 18 2011 George Washington University (HPC workshop) 20
Sep 8 2011 Whole Foods in Rochester Hills (Hans Steiner) 10
Sep 9 2011 Dan Newell one-on-one 1
Sep 27 2011 Solar Tour training 6
Oct 1 2011 Solar Tour Adams (Bob, Hans) 6
Oct 1 2011 Solar Tour Coop/Bakery (Lisa, Keith, Eric, Jon) 26
Oct 1 2011 Solar Tour 403 Huron (Tad, Dan) 14
Oct 1 2011 Solar Tour City Hall (Dave, Steve) 16
Oct 1 2011 Solar Tour Corner Brewery (Garth) 8
Oct 11 2011 Stewar Beal one-on-one 1
Oct 24 2011 St. Matt & St. Joe Episcopal Church (Detroit) 20
Oct 28 2011 Skyline High School Engineering class 25
Nov 6 2011 Ignite6 Ann Arbor 270
Nov 11 2011 Matt Grocoff 2
Nov 11 2011 Google Ann Arbor – TGIF talk 50
Nov 14 2011 YpsiFoodCoop – UnvMich students 3
Nov 29 2011 Eastern Mich Unv student one-on-one at Ugly Mug 1
Nov 30 2011 Eastern Mich Unv CSIE Seminar Series 50

2011 Total of 24 meetings reaching 594 people

Jan 14 2012 Westminster Presbyterian Church – Men’s Breakfast 20
Jan 14 2012 Ypsilanti Distric Library – Michigan Ave 25
Feb 15 2012 Team Detroit 7
Mar 27 2012 Eastern Michigan University 11
Apr 15 2012 Ypsilanti First United Methodist Church 23
Apr 20 2012 Consumer Family Advocate Council (Detroit) 21
May 12 2012 Growing Hope’s Ypsi Garden Fair 12
Jun 23 2012 Ann Arbor Area Real Estate Investor Club 12
Aug 17,18,19 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival (Dave, Steve, Paul) 800
Oct 11 2012 Ypsilanti Jaycee walking tour 8
Oct 17 2012 Ypsilanti Jaycee meeting 23
Oct 23 2012 WiHi International High School A2 physics class 26
Oct 24 2012 WiHi International High School B1 physics class 25
Oct 24 2012 WiHi International High School B2 physics class 26
Nov 8 2012 VNEXT Ann Arbor (Tad Wysor) 6
Nov 9 2012 One-on-one with EMU grad student Gilles Renard 1
Dec 19 2012 EMU construction professors 4

2012 Total of 17 meetings reaching 1050 people

Feb 14 2013 EMU Construction class 25
Feb 24 2013 Ann Arbor Friends Meeting (Quakers) 20
Mar 15 2013 TEDxEMU 200
Mar 19 2013 Michigan Ladder one-on-one 1
Mar 22 2013 Stewart Beal one-on-one 1
Mar 26 2013 Go Solar Community Forum 52
Mar 4 2013 EMU GIS class 12
May 8 2013 EMU Summer Science Research Initiative 50
Jun 26 2013 Girl Scout Camp 121
Aug 16,17,18 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival (Dave, Steve, Amy) 400
Nov 20 2013 Ypsilanti Fire Department (shift 1) 4
Nov 20 2013 Ypsilanti Fire Department (shift 2) 4
Nov 20 2013 Ypsilanti Fire Department (shift 3) 4

2013 Total of 13 meetings reaching 894 people

Mar 20 2014 EMU GREEN meeting 20
Apr 13 2014 Ypsilanti Fire Chief 1
Apr 13 2014 Ypsilanti Historic District Meeting 20
Jun 27 2014 X-Ray and Specialty Instruments 3
Jul 16 2014 Northend Christian/Greater Woodward CDC 12
Aug 15,16,17 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival (Dave, Paul, Amy) 400
Sep 2 2014 Ed Berch Ypsi Key Bank 1
Sep 9 2014 Mike Kabat Haab’s Restaurant 1
Oct 4 2014 Solar Tour 2

2014 Total of 9 meetings reaching 460 people

Jan 21 2015 Solar talk at Bona Seri w/ AJ Leo 45
Feb 11 2015 Solar talk at ARROW ham radio club 20
Mar 5 2015 Solar talk at the Detroit Google Dev Group 30
Mar 17 2015 Solar Ribbon Cutting at Corner Health Center 25
Mar 30 2015 Solar Ribbon Cutting at Parkridge Community Center 15
May 15 2015 Solar Ribbon Cutting at WiHi school 32
Jun 2 2015 Solar Ribbon Cutting at Ypsi District Library 8
Jun 11 2015 YCS Sustainability Summit 12
Jun 18 2015 One-on-one with the Richies 2
Jun 23 2015 Solar Ribbon Cutting at Senior Center 17
Jun 27 2015 GLREA Energy Fair 50
Jul 30 2015 one-on-one with Glenn Nelson 1
Aug 15 2015 one-on-one with Herb White 1
Sep 21 2015 one-on-one with John Donnelly and wife 2
Oct 3 2015 National Solar Tour 20
Nov 11 2015 one-on-one with EMU student Kenneth Snavely 1
Dec 04 2015 one-on-one with EMU student Jose Garcia 1

2015 Total of 17 meetings reaching 282 people

Feb 1 2016 Brownstown Kiwasis 15
Feb 27 2016 one-on-one with Gary Urick, wants to install 1
Mar 1 2016 Washtenaw Internation High School, Gov Class 1 30
Mar 1 2016 Washtenaw Internation High School, Gov Class 2 25
Mar 2 2016 Washtenaw Internation High School, Gov Class 3 25
Apr 5 2016 one-on-one with Grant Cashman 1
Apr 12 2016 Ann Arbor ELS class 10
Apr 12 2016 Ann Arbor ELS class 5
Apr 24 2016 Ypsi Library Michigan Ave 10
May 31 2016 MIAT morning class 60
May 31 2016 MIAT evening class 25
Jun 24 2016 Girl Scout executives 2
Jun 24 2016 Washtenaw Internation HS, Summer Gov Class 40
Sep 22 2016 Unv of Michigan students at Cultivate 2
Sep 23 2016 Arial Moore one-on-one at Cultivate 1
Oct 1 2016 National Solar Tour at the Freighthouse 16
Oct 8 2016 Cultivate Science Saturdays 6
Oct 22 2016 one-on-one with Jennifer Slack and Ken Sevnson 2
Oct 27 2016 Financing solar Meetup at Spark East 16
Nov 22 2016 one-on-one with EMU student Justin Westphal 1

2016 Total of 20 meetings reaching 293 people

Jan 29 2017 one-on-one with Everett Mayes 1
Feb 8 2017 Washtenaw County solar presentstion 2
Feb 12 2017 one-on-one with Aaron Brodkey (UnvMich student) 1
Feb 13 2017 one-on-one with Bill Emory 1
Feb 19 2017 one-on-one with Anne Stevenson 1
Feb 23 2017 Mitchell & Mouat Architects (Thompson Block) 4
Mar 14 2017 City of Ypsilanti Building Department, HDC 6
Mar 18 2017 Brandon Knight – Strawberry Solar 1
Mar 6 2017 Alyssa Jacobsen and Julie Miller EMU students 2
May 28 2017 Ariel and Eric’s house 10
Jul 9 2017 SouthEast Michigan Computer Organization 25
Jul 19 2017 Ramzi Araj and Kais Kawar from Fives 2
Aug 16 2017 One-on-one with Kumar Sivan 1
Oct 2 2017 Ypsi Sustainability Commission meeting 25
Oct 7 2017 National Solar Tour 25
Oct 11 2017 Detroit Google Developers Group 20
Oct 12 2017 one-on-one Kirk David from Crazy Horse 1
Nov 2 2017 Ann Arbor Sustainibilty Meetup (SPARK East) 8
Nov 7 2017 one-on-one with Stephanie Parker, EMU student 1
Nov 14 2017 City Hall 50 big roofs 10
Nov 21 2017 one-on-one with Dave Novak at Auto Museum 1
Dec 9 2017 Cultivate Coffee & Tap House 11

2017 Total of 22 meetings reaching 159 people

Jan 11 2018 Presented to Habitat for Humanity 2
Jan 11 2018 Presentation at Belleville Library 26
Jan 12 2018 Presentation at Ypsilanti Library 2
Feb 10 2018 Ypsilanti Food Cooperative 10
Mar 12 2018 Brianna Kelly Concentrate Media one-on-one 1
Mar 17 2018 Habitat for Humanity ReStore – live streamed 12
Mar 29 2018 one-on-one with EMU student Larry Romero 1
Apr 9 2018 Rotary Club at EMU 12
Apr 22 2018 Cultivate Earth Day event 20
Apr 25 2018 Solar talk at TinkerTech 5
May 8 2018 one-on-one with Rainbow Rehabilitation 2
May 16 2018 Solar talk at Ypsilanti Performance Space 15
Jun 2 2018 Solar talk at Ypsilanti Distric Library (Spanish) 9
Jun 22 2018 Solar talk to WiHi government class (Mr.Fox) 27
Jun 22 2018 Solar talk to WiHi government class (Mr.??) 28
Jun 23 2018 one-on-one with Jonathan Ferrer 1
Jun 30 2018 one-on-one with Kathleen Trues 1
Jul 17 2018 Presented at Landline Creative Labs 7
Jul 25 2018 Solar walking tour for Lansing 4-H club 25
Aug 14 2018 Solar talk at Growing Hope 2
Aug 27 2018 one-on-one with Mary and Finn 2
Aug 27 2018 one-on-one with Robert Harlow 2
Sep 11 2018 one-on-one with Nathan Houghteling MI Eng Club 1
Sep 22 2018 Farmer’s Market Equinox Party 100
Oct 7 2018 Natinoal Solar tour 15
Oct 9 2018 University of Michigan Energy Club 11
Oct 30 2018 one-on-one with Hannah Himmelbauer 1
Nov 6 2018 HighScope Staff 9
Nov 7 2018 one-on-one with Ben Harrington Spark East 1

2018 Total of 29 meetings reaching 350 people

Total = 5424 people in 215 meetings

We’re Number 18! Better than San Francisco in Watts per Capita

With all the recent solar installations going on in the City of Ypsilanti, I looked are our totals on the pie chart on the home page. We are currently sitting at 1,154,385 watts or 1.15MW. This is a bit conservative, since I know of a couple of solar installation that are not on SolarYpsi yet.

Looking at our current population on the Ypsilanti Wiki page, there are 21,076 people living in the city. Dividing 1,154,385 watts by 21,076 people we have 54.77 watts per capita.

Then looking at the 2018 Environment America Shining City report, page 7, I can see that San Francisco is ranked #18 with 54.1 watt/capita and Washington DC is ranked #17 with 69.4 watts/capita.

That makes Ypsilanti number #18 in the national for solar on a watts per capita basis. Woohoo!!

Granted we’re a small city, but something we can all be proud of achieving. Let’s install more solar power and shoot for over taking Honolulu and being #1. Call a solar contractor today and get a quote.

Ypsilanti’s “Solar in your Community Challenge” SunShot Project Receives $20,000 TA Blitz Voucher

Thanks to everyone that has been sending in letter to DTE about our project. I’ve been getting a lot of emails and relies that letters are in the mail. Chart House Energy met with DTE last week and they are very positive on the project and we’ll know in several weeks.

We also receive a $20,000 TA Blitz voucher from the SunShot program to pay for the solar training program. If we are successful and complete all our SunShot projects, we have a chance to win $500,000! The future looks bright for solar in Ypsilanti.

Thank you all for helping.


Dear Team Solar Destination Ypsilanti,

Thank you for your recent application to the Solar in your Community Challenge’s TA Voucher Blitz. Congratulations! You have been selected to receive a $20,000 TA Blitz voucher. Please remember that this is a time-limited opportunity, and consultants must complete all work by March 12th.

Solar in Your Community Challenge
Solar in Your Community Challenge

Ypsilanti Wins Smart City Award for the Solar Installation on the Fire Station


“Smart 50 Awards, in partnership with Smart Cities Connect, Smart Cities Connect Foundation, and US Ignite, annually recognize global smart cities projects, honoring the most innovative and influential work. This year, primary categories included governance, mobility, energy, citizen life, and networks.”

Check out some of the other Cities selected for an award: Greenville, SC,Tel Aviv, Israel, Warsaw, Poland, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Soma, Turkey, Lund, Sweden, Brussels, Belgium, Berkeley, CA, Bhopal, India, Philadelphia, PA, Chattanooga, TN, Austin, TX, Boise, ID, Montreal, Quebec, San Leandro, CA, San Francisco, CA, Limerick, Cork, Dublin City, Ireland, Kansas City, MO, Bhopal, India, Atlanta, GA, etc… We’re in good company.

Smart 50 Awards
Smart 50 Awards

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.