EAST LANSING — Construction on a new solar array project – a venture that could save the university $10 million over 25 years – has started at Michigan State University. Continue reading MSU Engineering Students Working On New Solar Project, To Save University $10M
LANSING – The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, a trade association for renewable energy companies, announced Monday that a new report from the Solar Foundation found that jobs in Michigan’s solar industry jumped by an impressive 48 percent from 2015 to 2016.
During that time, Michigan solar companies added more than 1,300 jobs, for a total Michigan solar workforce of 4,118.
This positions Michigan second in the Midwest both in terms of growth rate and number of individuals employed in the solar industry, Nationally, Michigan now ranks 15th in the number of solar jobs, up three spots since 2015. (Ohio leads the Great Lakes are with 5,831 solar jobs, and employment grew there 21 percent in 2016. Indiana had the fastest growth rate, 72 percent, but has the smallest number of solar jobs in the region, 2,700.)
Nationally, the Solar Jobs Census 2016 reported that solar employment has nearly tripled since 2010 and was up 25 percent over 2015, with the industry adding more than 21,000 jobs in 2015 for a total of more than 260,000 solar workers nationally. This is the fourth consecutive year of more than 20 percent national solar job growth. Last year, one out of every 50 jobs created in the United States was in the solar industry. Notably, solar now employs twice as many people as the entire U.S. coal industry, and the same number as work in natural gas.
The Michigan EIBC represents companies across the full range of the advanced energy sector, including advanced materials, biomass and biofuels, energy efficiency, energy storage, lighting, smart grid, solar, transportation, and wind.
More at www.mieibc.org.
HOUGHTON — Support for solar energy is vast. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans want the US to put more emphasis on developing solar power. Most of the same people, unfortunately, can’t afford to install solar energy systems in their homes. Even after federal tax credits, installing solar panels to cover all of a family’s electricity needs can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For others, a home solar system isn’t a consideration because they rent, or move frequently.
But Michigan Technological University’s Joshua Pearce says he knows the solution: plug and play solar.
“Plug and play systems are affordable, easy to install, and portable,” said Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and of electrical and computer engineering. “The average American consumer can buy and install them with no training.”
In a study funded by the Conway Fellowship and published in Renewable Energy (DOI: 10.1016/j.renene.2016.11.034), Pearce and researchers Aishwarya Mundada and Emily Prehoda estimate that plug and play solar could provide 57 gigawatts of renewable energy – enough to power the cities of New York and Detroit – with potentially $14.3 to $71.7 billion in sales for retailers and $13 billion a year in cost savings for energy users.
Sounds great, right? Well, there’s one problem: in many parts of the United States, electrical regulations don’t allow consumers to plug and play.
Small investment, big return
Plug and play solar panels connect to an ordinary electrical outlet. You’re still on the grid, but you’ve become a “prosumer” — a consumer of energy who also produces it. The panels range in wattage and are relatively affordable, with some costing just a couple of hundred dollars. A prosumer can start small, with just one panel, and slowly build up over time to a system that produces 1 kilowatt of energy, the equivalent of powering 10 100-watt light bulbs.
The panels are also portable. So, for example, if a college student buys one 250-watt plug and play panel each year for four years, reaching 1 kilowatt of energy by senior year, that student can unplug the four panels when she graduates and take them to her next destination.
Pearce estimated that plug and play systems could generate more than four times the amount of electricity generated from all of U.S. solar last year.
“The vast majority of this energy never leaves the home,” Pearce said. “It’s the equivalent of handling a hair dryer load. We’re talking about almost nothing on the electrical grid – but that nothing adds up. It’s an appliance with a high rate of return.”
Safe, simple — and largely prohibited
In the U.S., a patchwork of local jurisdictions and regulations make it difficult to figure out if and where plug and play panels are allowed.
“You can buy the panels, but you might not be able to plug them in, depending on your utility,” Pearce said.
In a paper published earlier this year in Solar Energy (DOI: 10.1016/j.solener.2016.06.002), Pearce, Mundada and researcher Yuenyong Nilsiam reviewed all regulations in the U.S. that would apply to plug and play systems. They found no safety or technical issues with the equipment on the market.
“This is an area where less regulation could really help renewable energy,” Pearce said. “We know that the technology is safe, and the law should reflect that.”
The risk, according to Pearce, is putting too much current on one circuit, so he recommends that homeowners keep their plug and play systems to a kilowatt or less. Simple precautions make this easy — if a panel is plugged into an outdoor outlet, for example, safety plugs on all other outdoor outlets on that circuit can prevent overload.
While some jurisdictions have recognized that there are no major safety or technical issues with plug and play panels, paperwork holds up the process. Potential prosumers often have to fill out complicated forms to fulfill utility requirements, and the paperwork and associated fees vary by utility. To simplify the process, Pearce and colleagues automated it, by writing open-source computer code that fills out every possible technical requirement. Utilities can easily use the free code on their websites.
“Some utilities have embraced plug and play, and some have ignored it because they think it’s a pittance,” Pearce says. “But plug and play solar is something that can help most Americans.”
LANSING — The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council announced that John J. Viera, global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters at Ford Motor Co., will give the keynote address at the fourth Annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 10 in East Lansing.
The gala will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of Michigan State University, 219 S. Harrison Road in East Lansing. Tickets are $150 for EIBC members and $185 for non-members. For tickets, visit this link.
HOUGHTON — While Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is not the sunniest place in the world, solar energy is viable in the region. With new technologies, some people might be inclined to leave the electrical grid. A team from Michigan Technological University looked into the economic viability of grid defection in the Upper Peninsula.
Known for snow rather than sun, the region could still support a significant network of solar photovoltaic energy systems. Solar energy alone in the Upper Peninsula is seasonally restricted. However, solar coupled with cogeneration and batteries could overcome any cloudy, cold winter day.
Michigan Tech engineers and sociologists explored what this new triple-threat technology, and the role of demographics, could mean for energy alternatives in the Upper Peninsula in a new study published in Energy Policy. Their analysis found that by 2020, leaving the electrical grid is a viable economic option for the majority of seasonal households (92 percent) as well as single-family owner-occupied households (65 percent). The study was published in the journal Energy Policy.
LANSING — The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council says new panelists are confirmed for its fourth annual member meeting, to be held Wednesday, May 4 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing.
Non-members may also attend the meeting. Tickets are still available at this link. Tickets are $100 for EIBC members and $175 for non-members. There is also a $50 government rate.
The meeting will feature an opening dialogue with Patricia Poppe, who will become president and CEO of Jackson-based Consumers Energy on July 1, and Sally Talberg, chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission.
This full-day conference provides attendees an opportunity to network, learn about innovations in advanced energy, and get an overview on the latest policy developments in Lansing.
Panel discussions during the day will include:
* Innovations in Transportation: Electrification, Lightweighting, and Connected Vehicles
* Taking Advantage of the ITC/PTC: What Are the Next Five Years for Renewable Energy
* Media Perspectives Panel: Discussion of All Things Energy Related -Political Landscape, Legislation, and 2016 Elections
* How to Think Big in Small Places: Energy Innovations in Rural Communities, Industrial Parks, and Downtowns
* The Changing Landscape of Energy Efficiency: Demand Response, ESCOs, and Where We Go From Here
A partial lists of scheduled panelists includes:
* Andy Balaskovitz, reporting fellow at Midwest Energy News, Grand Rapids
* Mathias Bell, manager of market development and regulatory affairs at the Minneapolis utility software developer Opower
* Lawrence E. Brown, executive director of the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute
* Myles Burnsed, director of business development at Oakland, N.J.-based groSolar
* Liesl Eichler Clark, president, Michigan EIBC
* Lawrence Drzal, director, Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, Michigan State University
* Mattnew Felan, president and CEO of the Bay City-based Great Lakes Bay Region Alliance
* Scott Ferguson, project executive, director of sustainability, Rockford Construction, Grand Rapids
* Zachary Gorchow, editor, Gongwer News Service, Lansing
* Robert Jackson, loan and renewable energy program manager, Michigan Energy Office
* Emily Lawler, capitol and business reporter, MLive, Lansing
* Andrew S. Levin, founder and managing partner, Levin Energy Partners LLC, Detroit
* Marc Lewis, vice president, regulatory and external affairs, AEP Indiana Michigan Power, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
* Doug Luciani, CEO, TraverseConnect, the parent company of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and the multi-county economic development corporation Venture North
* Tim Mahler, vice president of operations, ClearResult, an Austin, Texas-based designer of energy efficiency programs and a provider of other services for utilities.
* Melanie McCoy, superintendent of the municipal utility Sebawaing Light and Water
* Kyle Melinn, news editor, Michigan Informaton and Research Service Inc. (MIRS), Lansing
* David W. Palsrok, government policy advisor, Dykema, Lansing
* Jim Saber, vice president, business and technology development, NextEnergy, the state of Michigan’s advanced energy industry accelerator
* J.R. Tolbert, senior director of state policy at the Washington, D.C. nonprofit Advanced Energy Economy
* Shane VanCise, energy solutions account executive, Johnson Controls Inc., Saginaw
Sponsorship opportunities are also still available, and most come with the opportunity to exhibit at the event. Please contact Nicole Forward at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Sponsors of the event include Consumers Energy, CleaResult, Invenergy, ITC Holdings Inc. and the Michigan Agency for Energy.
CANTON TWP. — The home furnishings retailer Ikea Wednesday energized an expanded solar energy array atop its 9-year-old store in Canton Township.
The 40,000-square-foot solar panel addition consists of a 242.1-kilowatt system built with 781 panels, and will produce 293,502 kilowatt-hours more electricity annually for the store.
The solar expansion sits atop a 44,000-square-foot store extension completed in spring 2015. With the addition, Ikea Canton’s 1,219.7-kilowatt solar installation of 4,941 panels will generate 1,408,445 kilowatt-hours of clean electricity each year, the equivalent of reducing 971 tons of carbon dioxide, eliminating the emissions of 204 cars or powering 134 homes.
MIDLAND — The Institute for Energy Innovation, a nonprofit organization, is looking for proposals from solar energy contractors to “Solarize Michigan.”
Modeled on a solar energy promotion initiative in Portland, Ore. in 2010, the goal is to significantly increase small-scale solar energy installations in the Great Lakes Bay region that includes Saginaw, Bay City, Midland, and surrounding communities.
The effort is being conducted in partnership with the Lansing energy consulting firm 5 Lakes Energy LLC, and the economic development agencies Saginaw Future, Midland Tomorrow and Bay Future.
The full request for proposals may be found at https://www.facebook.com/solarizemichigan.
ALLENDALE — Suniva, Inc., a Norcross, Ga.-based maker of solar power cells and modules, announced the groundbreaking of Michigan’s largest community solar project, a partnership of Grand Valley State University and Consumers Energy’s Solar Gardens program.
The three-megawatt solar array, powered by Suniva, is the first of its kind for Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility. The array will span across 17 acres at Grand Valley’s Allendale campus, near 48th Avenue and Luce Street. The university will also participate in the Solar Gardens program as a customer.
ANN ARBOR — In an era when solar power is being integrated into the nation’s energy grid, IBM is developing technology to help forecast solar power output.
Now, that technology is helping the University of Michigan power its solar car in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, an 1,800-mile (3,000-kilometer) race across the Australian Outback that begins Oct. 18.
The UM student team will use IBM Research’s computing expertise to gain real-time insights into conditions such as cloud cover and wind patterns, to help determine how much solar power will be available to fuel their car along the course race.