Some history on the project
The purpose of this website is to provide a map of the various locations where solar power is being generated within the City of Ypsilanti. It is maintained with volunteer labor by supporters of SolarYpsi. Our goal is to provide a means for viewing how much solar power is being generated within the City at any given time. Dave Strenski is heading the efforts for the project.
SolarYpsi was launched in 2005 when the Ypsilanti Food Co-operative won a grant from the State of Michigan to install a small demonstration solar photovoltaic system on their roof. Volunteers installed a 4 panel, 760-watt system on the roof, along with digital EnergyViewers on a wall in the store, which display how much energy is being generated.
As part of this initial grant, Ypsi Food Coop volunteers created a traveling educational presentation to explain how solar power works in Michigan, and the advantages of tying solar installation into the local electricity grid. Through a grant administered by Recycle Ann Arbor, the Ypsi Food Coop was able to raise additional funds by making this solar energy presentation widely available to the general public, such that in 2007 we were able to purchase a fifth panel for the Co-operative. To date over a thousand people have attended these presentations, and the response has stimulated ideas and planning for new projects, along with new requests for presentations. If you would like to schedule a presentation for your group of 15 or more, contact the Ypsi Food Coop at 734-483-1520.
Meanwhile, with the help of DTE Energy, the Ypsi Food Coop completed the installation of all the necessary hardware to connect its system to the electrical grid, and was among the first solar power generators in Michigan with a net-metering arrangement. Net-metering allows solar power systems to export excess power back to the local utility for credit, which can be used when the sun is not shining. We were also able to install utility meters that can be monitored remotely to provide data to this website.
2008 saw the Ypsi Food Coop win two more grants from the State of Michigan. The first was to install 12 solar panels to the back of Ypsilanti's City Hall building, and to install an additional 7 panels to the Ypsi Food Coop. Adding the seven panels to the Ypsi Food Coop was completed in 2009, and now has a total of twelve 190 watt panels generating 2.3 KW of solar power. The City Hall project was completed in the spring of 2010 with twelve 205 watt panels for a 2.5 KW system. Both projects are connected to the utility grid with net-metering and exports excess power when available. Both locations are also collecting real time data about the power being generated, consumed, and exported from these locations and displaying it on the SolarYpsi website.
The second 2008 grant was to fund the installation of 30 panels at the River Street Bakery, making it 100% solar powered. That project was completed in the fall of 2010 by SolarYpsi volunteers and is also connected to the utility grid and has real time monitoring.
In 2009 the project brought in Dr. William Sverdlik from the Computer Science Department of Eastern Michigan University and his student Nik Estep to work on the remote monitoring of the initial Ypsi Food Coop's solar installation. This work has produced the live data monitoring that is currently available on this website at 4 different locations in Ypsilanti. Data will be available from other sites as they get installed.
2009 also saw the start of the DTE Energy Solar Currents program that created incentives for solar power generations. The program paid $2.40 per installed watt of solar panels and an additional $0.11 per KWH generated over the next 20 years. The Ypsi Food Coop, City Hall, and River Street Bakery all took advantage of this program to generate additional funds for energy conservation and future solar projects. Unfortunately this program quickly reached its quota and is currently closed.
SolarYpsi has also worked with the local elementary school, Adams S.T.E.M Academy, to complete the application for a solar installation from the Michigan Renewable Schools Program in 2010. They were selected and ten 240 watt panels were installed in the spring of 2011, producing 2.4 KW of solar power. The system was installed by the solar contractor Windemuller. Through the summer of 2011 SolarYpsi worked with the school and DTE Energy to install the monitoring laptop to display their data on the SolarYpsi website.
The number of solar installations continues to grow in Ypsilanti. Independent of SolarYpsi, in the summer of 2011 a house on South Huron, with three apartment units installed 55 solar panels. The installer of the system was Oak Electric and included the building of a carport to house many of the panels. The fall of 2011 also saw the Corner Brewery win approval from the Ypsilanti Historic Commission to install 144 panels on their brewery on Norris Street. They hope to have that project completed by December of 2011. SolarYpsi is working with both these locations to put information about these installations on the website and track their power generation, consumption, and exportation in real time.
2012 saw SolarYpsi shifting its focus from designing and installing solar installation to more education. Most of this was driven by Google finding our project and deciding to use it in a Google commercial about search. You can see it on the SolarYpsi Presentation tab above. That video spawned many articles and other video opportunities. You'll now find stories about SolarYpsi in Homepower and SolarToday magazines and echoed on many websites across the internet. SolarYpsi is also now available on iTunesU.
The other big news is that the price for solar power continues to fall. The bad news is that as prices for the module fall, business that are not able to adjust are forced to go out of business. Evergreen was one of these companies, but we were able to turn that into an advantage for the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative and purchased 18 panels at $0.78/watt.
Some bad news for SolarYpsi is that our monitoring program has stopped working with the replacement of all the utility meters in town being swapped over to the new smart meters.We have some ideas on how to read the new meters, but it doesn't look easy.
As for new installations, the most exciting was a 6kW installation at the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival. You can see lots of pictures on the 6232 Munger Road installation page. There is also a project in the works to put a large solar farm near the I94 exit to Ypsilanti.
In 2013, we see the price for solar power continue to drop. Nik Estep continues to work wonders on the SolarYpsi website and has re-written the site from scratch using a new architecture that allows us to enter new sites a lot quicker.
SolarYpsi was on a California radio station blog and continues to promote solar power. We were approached by Environment Michigan and urged to shoot for a 1000 solar roof goal. The activity started in February with a community action meeting that drew a large crowd. Ideas were shared and a resolution was put before City Council. They didn't approve the resolution in April, but did in September when we came back with more information.
On the education front SolarYpsi gave a solar talk at TEDxEMU that has been receiving a lots on hits on the website. SolarYpsi installed another large array at the Heritage Festival and hosted yet another National Solar Tour in Ypsilanti.
SolarYpsi welcomes your help to make Ypsilanti a "Solar Destination". 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."
This page was last updated: October 2013