Some history on the project


Based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, SolarYpsi provides free consultations and group presentations to expand public knowledge about solar power, while pulling for more solar energy projects in the community. This website provides an overview of past and current projects, with a map showing where solar power is up and running. The site also offers technical nuts and bolts, as well as links to the SolarYpsi blog, facebook page, YouTube channel, and other resources. Each map pin is connected to an illustrated cache of information about that location's solar energy system. They include community organizations and businesses, as well as homes. Since 2005 SolarYpsi remains an unincorporated, grassroots network of volunteers. This website is also supported by volunteer efforts, and is coordinated by SolarYpsi's volunteer founder, Dave Strenski.

Five years ago, SolarYpsi announced the goal of helping the City of Ypsilanti achieve “a thousand solar roofs by 2020.”  To reach this milestone, SolarYpsi volunteers are building new funding partnerships, and creating opportunities for job training in the solar sector, hopefully impacting positive economic growth in Michigan. As the number of solar installations has grown, this former factory town has become a “solar destination.” With a population of about 21,000 people, the solar installations in Ypsilanti currently add up to more than 1 megawatt of solar producing capacity, about 50 watts of solar power per capita. As local enthusiasm for solar continues to grow,  it's no surprise Ypsilanti is nationally recognized as a regional solar leader.

How did SolarYpsi get started?

SolarYpsi was launched in 2005 when the Ypsilanti Food Co-operative won a grant from the State of Michigan to install a solar demonstration project. With advice from local experts, Co-op volunteers learned the basics and installed a 4-panel solar energy system on the grocery store's roof. Tech savvy volunteers translated the minute-by-minute energy data into easy to understand graphics, displayed on a monitor in the store.

As part of the grant, Ypsi Food Co-op volunteers created a  “solar talk” to share what they learned, and explain how solar power works in Michigan. The solar talk was an instant hit; it started a swell of enthusiasm for solar power.  At the completion of the project the volunteers started looking for more places in the city to do solar projects, and SolarYpsi was born!

Over the the past decade and a half, SolarYpsi volunteers have delivered more than 235 presentations, attended by over 5,000 people. A TEDx talk on Youtube has received nearly 9,000 views.  SolarYpsi has helped raise over $200,000 in grants and donations, and provided countless hours of volunteer time to make dozens of solar projects happen.

SolarYpsi welcomes your help. If you are interested in getting involved or learning more about how solar power works in Michigan, please contact us and "get on the map."

Timeline of SolarYpsi milestones

2005 – With a $6,000 grant from the State of Michigan, volunteers installed a 4-panel demonstration solar energy system at the Ypsilanti Food Co-operative, SolarYpsi's first project.

2006 – SolarYpsi organized its first tour for the the American Solar Energy Society's National Solar Tour, which continues every October.

2007 – Community residents donated over $1,000  for a solar demonstration project on Ypsilanti's City Hall building.

2008 – SolarYpsi laid the groundwork for a $40,000 grant from the State for the City Hall project, and expanded the Ypsilanti Food Co-op installation.  SolarYpsi kids helped build a model of City Hall out of Legos, to show how the panels would look.  Both projects required approvals from the City's Historic District Commission, steps which helped Ypsilanti receive national recognition as a “solar ready” community nine years later.

2008 – With more than $44,500 in funding from the State, volunteers installed solar power on the roof of the River Street Bakery.  The bakery became 100% solar and renewably powered, and was featured in a national video produced by the Solar Energy Industries Association 2 years later.

2009 – SolarYpsi partnered with Dr. William Sverdlik of Eastern Michigan University's Computer Science Department and graduate student Nik Estep. Estep translated the energy data collected via SolarYpsi's remote monitoring program. Estep created easily interpreted, colorful graphs of live energy data for this website. These graphs are still hugely popular for helping people understand how solar power works. Nik Estep also re-built the SolarYpsi website.

2009 – SolarYpsi partnered with Recycle Ann Arbor to host solar talks in the area, attended by over a thousand people, and raised $10,000 for solar installations, as part of a federal grant program.

2010 – Concentrate Media selected SolarYpsi for a feature news story, still available on YouTube.

2010 – Solar Energy Industries Association selected Ypsilanti for a whistle stop on its video “Solar Generation USA Road Trip -- Webisode 2.”

2011 – SolarYpsi helped Arbor Brewing Company win approval from the Ypsilanti Historic District Commission for a high visibility solar installation on its Corner Brewery building.

2011 – SolarYpsi partnered with Energy Works Michigan to implement a solar demonstration project at Adams STEM Academy (now Ypsilanti International Elementary), funded by the Michigan Public Services Commission's Renewable Schools Program.

2011 – Global 1 Network Broadcast Company produced an in-depth video about SolarYpsi's projects at the Ypsilanti Food Co-operative.

2011 – To promote its search engine, Google featured SolarYpsi in a prime time TV commercial, aired at halftime during Detroit Lions games. It later received a quarter million views on YouTube.

2011 – SolarYpsi partnered with Wireless Ypsi to install solar powered WiFi hotspots.

2011-2012 – Volunteer web designer Nik Estep created a second rebuild of the SolarYpsi website.

2011 – The American Solar Energy Society's publication, Solar Today included an article in its April/May issue about SolarYpsi's experience of making the Google TV commercial.

2012 – Over a thousand people visited SolarYpsi's ground mounted solar panels installed in Riverside Park as part of the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival weekend in August. The solar array provided about 3 percent of the electricity needed for the festival. Borrowing solar panels for the event each year, SolarYpsi also participated in the 2013 and 2014 festivals.

2012 – SolarYpsi's educational presentation is selected for iTunesU.

2012 – MiGrid, a company focused on creating a clean energy economy in Michigan, visited Ypsilanti as part of its “Michigan Clean Energy Roadshow” video project. The beginning portion of the trailer for the film showcases several SolarYpsi projects.

2013 – SolarYpsi receives approval to put a solar installation on the 1878 Michigan Central Freight House (locally known as the Ypsilanti Freighthouse), which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

2013 – SolarYpsi's Dave Strenski is chosen to present a TEDx talk at Eastern Michigan University.

2013 – Ypsilanti is the subject of a report published by the Environment Michigan Research and Policy Center, “Building a Solar Destination: How Ypsilanti can harness the sun to power its future,” which recommends Ypsilanti adopt the goal of  installing 1,000 solar roofs by 2020. Environment Michigan hosts a “Go Solar Community Forum” to rally support for this goal.

2013 – Ambassador magazine invited SolarYpsi's founder Dave Strenski to participate in their March “Round Table” devoted to the topic of energy and the environment, and hosted by the Ferndale Public Library. The discussion was summarized in an illuminating article by Nadir Omowale, “Re-energizing Issues: Energy experts advise on solutions for an environmentally-friendly future.”

2013 – SolarYpsi is invited to appear on the internet radio show, “Chasing Clean Air,” hosted by California based radio blogger Donna Barnett, on Blog Talk Radio.

2013 – After a series of presentations by SolarYpsi about the feasability of its new goal, the City of Ypsilanti passes a resolution in support of SolarYpsi's “1,000 Solar Rooftop Initiative.”

2013 – SolarYpsi installed QR tags on signs at various solar locations around town.

2014 – Six local nonprofit organzations are selected to receive solar energy systems from an anonymouns donor who contacted SolarYpsi. The donor contributed over $93,000 which covered the total cost of solar installations for a public library, 2 community centers, a health center, a public high school and the City of Ypsilanti, for its new truck port.

2014 – SolarYpsi volunteer photographer Cameron Getto puts together a virtual tour of SolarYpsi installations by launching the SolarYpsi YouTube channel. The channel features Getto's superbly edited aerial videos of SolarYpsi rooftop projects.

2014 – SolarYpsi featured in Home Power Magazine article by Dave Strenski, “Finally Walking my Solar Talk,” about putting solar panels on his family's 1892 home in Ypsilanti.

2014 – SolarYpsi founder Dave Strenski interviewed on CitiTV Channel 19.

2015 – Ypsilanti featured in 2 Michigan Clean Energy Reports, one profiling 7 communities, the other a state profile of clean energy technologies. Research for the reports was conducted and published by Michigan Saves, and funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation.

2015 – After 3 years of discussions, SolarYpsi volunteers convinced DTE Energy Company to choose a site in Ypsilanti to expand DTE's Solar Currents program.  The 844 kW ground-mounted solar array was installed on a 3.5 acre parcel owned by Highland Cemetery.

2015 – SolarYpsi partnered with Growing Hope, a local nonprofit, to install a rooftop solar energy system at the downtown Ypsilanti Farmers' Marketplace. The installation was expanded in 2017.

2016 – SolarYpsi coordinated a 50kW solar installation on the city's fire station, its largest project to date, partnering with several donors, a brigade of volunteers, and Chart House Energy (to monetize the federal tax credit).

2016 – SolarYpsi featured on Michigan Radio's “Stateside with Cynthia Canty” program as part of Michigan Radio's “The Next Idea” project sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

2016 – SolarYpsi partners with SAMSA, based in Ypsilanti, for continuing web services. (A big Thank You to Nik Estep for 7 years of excellent work on this site!)

2017 – Partnering with Chart House Energy, Ypsilanti joined the “Solar in your Community Challenge” project, sponsored by the US Department of Energy's SunShot program. The community center building at the New Parkridge affordable housing community was selected for the first phase of the project, which will include on-the-job training for housing community residents.

2017 – Firehouse Magazine publishes a story about Ypsilanti, “Building a Solar Community at a Michigan Fire Station.”

2017 – Home Power magazine publishes “Solutions: PV Installations for Nonprofits,” a story about the SolarYpsi project connecting an anonymous donation with six local nonprofit organizations.

2017 - 2018 – In recognition for being a “solar ready” community, in 2017 Ypsilanti became the first city in Michigan to earn the SolSmart Gold award from the Solar Foundation, and earning high marks the following year in: “Planning, Zoning and Development” and “Community Engagement.”

2018 – For its solar installation at the fire station, Ypsilanti was recognized at the annual Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo, in Kansas City, MO.

2018 – Solar panels were installed at the New Parkridge community building, and additional panels are added to the city's truck port, by 2 teams of newly trained local workers, as part of the “Solar in your Community Challenge” project.  Approvals and funding for an installation on city owned land near interstate route 94 were pending at the time of this update.

2018 – Environment America spotlighted Ypsilanti as a rising “Solar Star” in its annual “Shining Cities” report.

2018 – SolarYpsi began a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, to explore the possibility of installing solar power on local Habitat Homes. Habitat for Humanity and SolarYpsi are currently recruiting additional funding partners.

This page was last updated: May 2018