Tag Archives: strenski

City of Ypsilanti Awarded Top National Solar Recognition

(YPSILANTI, MI) June 1, 2017: The City of Ypsilanti is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a Gold designation for supporting solar energy development by SolSmart, a national organization dedicated to helping communities reduce barriers to solar energy growth. To achieve the Gold designation, a community must take steps to streamline solar panel installation permitting, track key metrics regarding solar installation, and commit to encouraging local solar installations. Ypsilanti is the only community in Michigan to achieve this award, and one of only 58 communities nationwide.

Read the full press release here.

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.


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!

EMU Student Writes Paper about Energy Independence

Laura Hammonds, a student at Pennsylvania State University, called me in the Fall of 2013 asking for an interview to learn more about local activities in solar power. Here are her notes on the interview and her paper on Energy Independence.

Energy Independence: Renewable & Traditional Sources

Implications Paper Interview Notes

National Solar Tour in Ypsilanti

National Solar Tour in Ypsilanti

Who: Anyone interested in solar power.

What: Ypsilanti will be taking part in the National Solar Tour again this year. There are 39 solar installations on the SolarYpsi map with 21 of those inside Ypsilanti’s city limits. Many of these locations are within walking distance of each other and have solar panels that are visible from the street. Dave Strenski will be at Ypsilanti’s City Hall’s parking lot at 1 South Huron talking about solar power. Stop by and say hello and get your solar questions answered. We’ll have site markers set up at many of the locations to make them easier to find.

When: Saturday, October 4th from 10:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Where: Ypsilanti’s City Hall at 1 South Huron and all around town. See SolarYpsi.org for map.

Contact: Dave Strenski, email: dave@strenski.com


Not able to make the tour? Then take our virtual tour created by Cameron Getto. Glover House (118 S.Washington), City Hall (1 S. Huron), Ypsi Food Co-Op (312 N. River), Corner Brewery (720 Norris), Strenski(323 Oak), GW Kent(506 S. Huron), Bashert(909 Grant), McAulay(280 Bellers Court), Krzyzanski(403 S. Huron) and Munger Road.

You can also learn about solar power in Ypsilanti by watching this TEDx talk.

Snow Dams on Solar Panels

When I was installing solar panels on our house I couldn’t decide if there should be a gap between the rows. Leaving the gaps would make space for snow to pile up and cover the top row. With no gap the snow would slide off as one sheet. However, in the summer time having a gap would make the panels cooler with more space for hot air to escape. Since there is more sun in the summer time, I opted for a gap to keep the panels cooler.

Well I proved one thing, a gap does create snow dams.

Snow Dams on Solar Panels

Snow Dams on Solar Panels

I walked over to the Ypsi Food Coop and looked at their solar panels. Those panels don’t have a gap between the rows and you can see that snow on the top row has completely slid off.

Snow Dams on Solar Panels

However, they have another problem of not being high enough off the roof so the snow piles up at the bottom of the panels.

Snow Dams on Solar Panels

This is not a big deal since these panels are on a flat roof that is easily accessible and a volunteer checks on the panels to shovel the snow away from the bottom of the panels. If the panels were mounted higher, they would have a higher wind load and would need more weight to keep them ballasted to the roof.

SolarYpsi Founder Goes Solar

Inspired by my neighbor Larry solar installation and the continue drop in price for solar panels, we decided to put some on our house. The only available roof space was on a West facing roof. While it will only generate about 80% of the power of a South facing roof, since the price was low it still makes economically sense.

I was also interested in using Michigan made solar panels. Contractor’s Builders Supply located in the Traverse City area are now making (assembling) solar panels. We’re using the SS-250, 60 cell, panels.

Solar Panels on 323 Oak Street
Solar Panels on 323 Oak Street

As the home owner, I was able to pull the building and electrical permits myself. My neighbors Charlie, Dave, Mark, and Bobby came over and helped with the project. I was surprised that we could get it all done in two weekends. Just for fun, we did the installation using only hand tools. We have passed our inspections and generating power.

You can see lots of pictures here, and track our energy production here.

All the bills are in and here is the breakdown of the costs.

Component Dollars/watt Percent of project
Solar panels $0.950/watt 38%
Inverters $1.041/watt 42%
Rack $0.331/watt 13%
Conduit/wire $0.089/watt 4%
Permits $0.068/watt 3%
Tools $0.009/watt 0%
Total $2.488/watt 100%

Those are the actual costs, but I had several left over parts. For example I needed 9 rails but they only came in bundles of 10. Same with the roof mounts, I needed 24 but had to buy 32. Here are our adjusted or true costs.

Component Dollars/watt Percent of project
Solar panels $0.950/watt 39%
Inverters $1.041/watt 43%
Rack $0.277/watt 11%
Conduit/wire $0.089/watt 4%
Permits $0.068/watt 3%
Tools $0.000/watt 0%
Total $2.416/watt 100%

It’s interesting to note that the inverters cost more than the solar panels. Micro-inverters are nice and seem inexpensive, but if you add in the special cables, mounting hardware, and communication gateway for monitoring the power, it get’s quite expensive.

We are lucky to get the project finished so quickly, so we can claim the renewable energy tax credit on our taxes in April. That will knock off 30% of the price. So the real out-of-pocket cost is (2.416*0.70) $1.691/watt, or (1.691*4500) $7610 for our 4.5 kW system.

Using a fixed price for power of $0.18/kWh, the system should generate about $850 dollar worth of power per year. That means it will take about 9 year to payoff. If the price of power rises, the payback period will be shorter. If the panels were facing South the system would generation about 20% more power and pay off even quicker, maybe in 6 years. The panels and inverters are warranty for 25 years but should last 30 or more years.