With Ypsilanti Food Co-op bakery solar panels in place, Solar Ypsi looks for next project

Solar panels atop the Ypsilanti Food Co-op are 99 percent installed, says Dave Strenski of Solar Ypsi, and he's already got his sights set on his next renewable energy project.

The 30 solar panels are on and functioning, he explains, but the bakery inadvertently gave them the wrong meters, so they can't track the actual energy input online yet. "We've been making electricity for probably two weeks," he says. "It is up and running."

In his final report to the state for the grant, the total price came in at less than $45,000, working out to about $7.50 per watt, a pretty reasonably priced solar installation, he says.

Now, Strenski, who started the grass roots Solar Ypsi and was the force behind the solar projects on the co-op, its bakery, and the city hall, would like to see solar panels at Adams Elementary School, which is in a prime location -- a large roof, with a road and then a park to the south, which would create virtually no shade over any solar panels. He's now looking for grants for such a project, such as through the Michigan Renewable Schools Program.

Part of the reason for putting the generation of energy online is so people can compare solar sites; in a recent comparison of the main co-op roof to the Ypsilanti City Hall, he found that city hall is a more efficient site because of its height and lack of shading. The co-op building is a bit shorter, and does get some tree shade in the afternoon. He figures that city hall is about a third more efficient than the co-op in terms of energy generated.

Trimming branches is an option, but the system can also be made more efficient with a new converter and perhaps more panels, Strenski explains. He's also applied for DTE Energy's SolarCurrents program, in which the utility buys back power generated.

Quite a few people from around Michigan check out the site to watch how much power is being generated through the day, and Strenski says the occasional person from Russia, China, or India also views the page. All his drawings, parts lists, costs, and everything else is on the site, should people want to duplicate a system to make their own.

"We're educating people throughout the state," he says.

Source: Dave Strenski, volunteer with Solar Ypsi
Writer: Kristin Lukowski