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Mar 14

Ypsilanti People’s Solar Initiative

Comments (2) 10:10 AM posted by admin |

Historic East Side resident, Dave Strenski has become somewhat of a local folk hero with regard to solar power. He led the charge to find a grant and install solar panels on the roof of the Ypsilanti Food Co-Op. He’s done numerous presentation at the Ypsilanti District Library as well as the Corner Brewery.

At last night’s special Council meeting regarding a plan by Honeywell to potentially save the City millions of dollars in energy costs over the next 15 years, Mr. Strenski’s name came up a lot as well as the Co-Op’s solar project. If Ypsilanti is willing to invest more than $3.1M in Honeywell’s plan, why aren’t we looking to alternative energies as part of the overall solution? Obviously the payback period for some of these ideas is longer than the conventional “clean coal” schemes General Electric sells us, but when is the time for the City of Ypsilanti to move off the grid, even if it’s just a tad?

Let’s say that time is now.

Life in Ypsilanti has become somewhat dependent on “friends” groups to provide services that the City used to deliver back in the days of milk and honey. We have the Friends of the Freighthouse, the Friends of the Rutherford Pool, Friends of the Senior Citizen’s Center, and businessman John Barfield has become the best friend the Parkridge Community Center could ever have. Would another friends group be one too many? What about Friends of Solar Energy (FOSE) or the Ypsilanti People’s Solar Initiative (YPSI)?

Would you become a friend?

The Food Co-Op completed their project for a little more than $7600. If there was a project to put solar panels on the roof of City Hall so that everyone coming into downtown on South Huron would see them, would you become a friend? A friend that donated money of course. Each panel costs about a grand. Would you find nine other friends so that you all could donate a panel to the cause?

Imagine the public relations impact this could have on Ypsilanti. On the front page of the the City’s web site, there could be a couple energy meters that show visitors how much energy the City is generating that day. As Mr. Strenski says, we should be advertising Ypsilanti.

 Mr. Strenski’s proposal can be found HERE. (ed. note: File revised 16MAR07 08:09AM)

UPDATE: A loyal reader mentioned Citizenre, a Massachusetts-based company whose business model is to manufacture solar panels and then lease them to customers at the going current rate for electricity. This effectively locks in the price of energy for the next 40 years. In addition, NPR just profiled Citizenre this morning on Morning Edition. That story can be located HERE.

They hope to have over 100K customers signed up by the end of the year. The only drawback is Citizenre has yet to build their proposed $650M factory that will produce these zero-investment solar panels.

UPDATE (2): Citizenre has published a strategy to combat negative PR for their solar leasing as well as their forecast for customer installation. It can be found HERE.

If it sounds too good to be true…

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  1. Comment by Joe
    March 16, 2007 @ 6:41 pm

    Here’s an alternate proposal that won’t cost the city anything, will lower costs over time, and will contribute to Ypsilanti being as green as possible: This company is starting up and will install solar panels at no cost to the consumer. The electricity generated by the panels is “sold” to the consumer at the current cost of electricity from the current electricity provider. In essence, it costs nothing to install the solar panels. As rates rise, the rate to the consumer stays level at the original installed rate. So, over time there is a savings to the consumer. Everyone wins here – the consumer (in this case, Ypsilanti) gets solar electricity, over time the city saves money, and everyone benefits from cleaner power, and there is no initial cost to the city. Now all they need to do is get the company running. (Supposedly there is going to be a ground breaking on the factory this month and they are going to send out engineers this fall to people that sign up now…)

  2. Comment by Sam
    March 19, 2007 @ 10:28 am

    Brian, Another potential way to harness solar power, reduce the city’s carbon footprint and potentially reduce operating expenses for the city would be an algae biodiesel project. I recently wrote about a company in Colorado that is teaming up with a microbrewery, to use the excess CO2 produced in the brewing process to feed an algae production system. The algae is then processed to produce biodiesel. The beauty of algae as a feedstock for biodiesel is it can produce over 100 times as much fuel per acre as soybeans or other crops, and it grows really fast.

    Imagine an algae biodiesel facility on the MotorWheel site, using CO2 piped in from the Corner Brewery. The fuel could then be used to power generators for facilities like city hall, fire stations etc, as well as city vehicles. You could harness the solar power, without having to deal with banks of batteries to store the power when the sun isn’t shining and really get off the grid.

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