Michigan State University plans to outfit five of its parking lots with solar parking bays. The solar array is expected to generate 10 MW, roughly 1/6 the amount used on campus during peak hours. The parking bays will have more than 13 feet of clearance, meaning RVs will still be able to park under them during weekend tailgates. The cost of the array is estimated to be between $25 and $30 million. More details.
Dow Chemical is bringing an updated version of its solar energy shingles to select U.S. markets early next year. Powerhouse Solar System 2.0 will feature waterproofing integration with common roofing materials and fewer roof penetrations. More details.
Michigan Agency for Energy is the first energy agency in the nation to use Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. PACE allows up-front financing of energy improvements that will be paid back by the property owners over time. The improvements that the Michigan Agency for Energy paid for cost $437,000, but are expected to save taxpayers $800,000 over the next 20 years. Improvements include a 20 kW solar array, electric vehicle charging stations, occupancy light sensors and upgrades to LED lights. More details.
MSU Student Solar Design Competition will award $10,000 in total prize money for first, second and third place and is open to undergraduate and graduate students from any Michigan college. Competition registration will close on Oct. 31 and submissions are due Nov. 25. Submissions will be evaluated for creativity, design, application and entrepreneurship. http://energyinnovationaward.
University of Michigan Researchers, inspired by the Japanese art of kirigami, have created a lattice-like cell that can stretch like an accordion, allowing it to tilt along the sun’s trajectory and capture more energy. The kirigami cells are made of flexible, thin-film gallium arsenide strips that have been cut in a simple, two-dimensional pattern. When the cells are stretched, the pattern pops out and allows them to become three-dimensional, tracking the sun over a radius of about 120 degrees. The patterned film can collect 30% more solar energy than conventional cells, but would need to be about twice as big. The kirigami panels wouldn’t look any different from conventional ones. The stretchy parts would be sandwiched between two surfaces, like a triple-paned window. The UM paper only demonstrates proof of concept. More details.
V-Max USA, a Southfield-based battery company, is planning to build a new Ypsilanti Township facility that will allow it to expand the solar part of its business. The company specializes in high-tech batteries using AGM technology, not battery acid, that provides 10 to 20 times the life of traditional batteries. The 24-year-old company started designing solar panels and packages in 2005 and now needs more space for research, design and shipping. More details.
Victor Leabu is one of 23 owners of hydro power plants in Michigan who are concerned that utilities plan to cut payments for power purchases by nearly half. White’s Bridge Hydro Co. in Lowell has a 32-year power purchase agreement that expires in 2016. The small 750 kW hydro plant has been operated since 1984 and the existing contract with Consumers Energy pays 7.1 cents per kWh. Utilities want to offer 4.5 cents per kWh for new contracts. The power purchasing contracts with hydro and biomass plants are required under a 1978 federal law called PURPA, the Public Utility Regulatory Power Act. Qualified generators can be paid avoided costs and avoided costs could be based on a combined-cycle gas plant at 7 cents per kWh. More details.
Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Assoc. in the UP has notified 20 net metering members that the co-op would no longer purchase their excess electricity at retail prices. Instead, the member-owned co-op will purchase excess electricity from its net metering customers at wholesale rates “minus line loss” — a difference of nearly 10 cents per kWh. The co-op’s leaders were not able to provide exact figures to justify the change, saying they are still studying the issue. More details.
DTE Energy has opened Michigan’s largest solar power facility. The 1.1 MW solar project is located on the grounds of the Domino’s Farms office complex in Ann Arbor Township. It consists of more than 4,000 panels and is part of SolarCurrents, a pilot program launched in 2009. DTE has installed 11 MW of solar energy across 23 sites. More details.
Sustainable Communities Champion awards were made at the EcoWorks 7th annual breakfast. 2015 awardees were Malik Yakini (Exec. Dir., Detroit Black Community Food Security Network), Soulardarity, John Viera (Dir., Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters, Ford Motor), and Jim Newman (Managing Partner of Newman Consulting Group). More details.