Michigan Solar Users Network (MiSUN) is an informal group of solar users and owners that have formed to share information and support the development of solar energy in Michigan. MiSUN is supported by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association established in 1991 to further the development of renewable energy in Michigan.
Solar energy includes photovoltaic (PV), solar pool heating, solar space heating, and solar hot water systems. Passive solar design, solar cookers, and solar lighting are also solar energy. There are thousands of solar energy users and owners in Michigan and that number will continue to grow as the cost of solar decreases.
MiSUN Chapter News
2016 Solar Tour Case Studies
|Rosenman Home Case Study||Arnosti Home Case Study|
|Porter-Moyer Home Case Study||Detjen Home Case Study|
We have a small house on Christie Lake which came with an expansive lake‐side deck, shaded by two mighty maple trees. We loved to sit out under the cool shade of these trees throughout the summer and watch “Lake TV”. Sadly, the extremely harsh winter of 2008‐2009 took its toll, with many feet of snow falling in Western Michigan.
With the Spring thaw, the lake level rose to a point where it completely flooded the front yard and killed off both of these magnificent trees. After getting the trees cut down, we found that it became simply too hot to sit out on the south‐facing deck in the middle of the summer any more, and we stopped using our wonderful deck. While traveling in Arizona, though, we ran across an interesting idea from the people who really know what it means to be hot – a solar pergola!
Not only could we get some shade back on our lake‐side retreat, but we could generate electricity at the same time! Doing some additional research, we found that not only had costs dropped considerably over the last few years, but the federal solar energy tax credit allows for a credit on the entire cost of the solar project, including any mounting structure that was purpose‐built to hold the panels. This made the decision easy.
In the summer of 2013, we subcontracted out the pergola, and then we installed our first three 230W SolarWorld panels with Enphase M215 microinverters. We were finally able to get usable shade across the front part of the deck, as well as put valuable electricity back into the grid on a Net Metering account with Consumers Energy.
To provide the proper mounting angle, we purchased 75’ of 2” aluminum angle ($200) and made custom mounts, visible in the picture.
These short struts provide a 20‐degree angle for the summer and block a majority of the mid‐day sun from the deck. For the winter, we swap out the shorter struts to 43” struts, which gives us a more suitable 60‐degree angle to improve both solar collection and snow shedding all winter long. The total cost for the first phase (outsourced pergola, panels, inverters, rails, parts, and paying a few neighbors to help at times) was just a shade above $6000.
Factoring in the 30% tax credit of $1800 and it was like getting the panels and inverters for free! In July 2015, we completed a second phase of this project to add three more 250W panels onto the back half of the pergola – doubling both our mid‐summer shade AND our power output. Since we knew that this was likely in the beginning, we had added the extra electrical boxes and wiring under the deck as part of phase one. This, in turn, made phase two substantially easier, and the entire installation was completed in under a week’s time, with the bulk of the electrical and solar being done in a single weekend.
Adding another 75’ of aluminum angle for the custom brackets and the electrical parts needed, this added another $2000 to the total project cost of the 1.5kW solar array. While the pre‐tax‐credit cost of 5.33 per Watt may seem high at first, you have to remember that is also includes the construction costs and labor on the pergola itself – which was over ½ of the phase one costs. If you subtract the pergola costs and including the tax credit bonus, the actual solar portion of the project drops to a mere $1.73/Watt! Factor in the additional savings in electricity costs, the increased resale value this provides our home (should we ever want to sell), the “green” environmental benefit, and the ability to use our deck once again in the summer, and you have a project that was well worth every penny and hour spent on it.
Even the dog thinks I’m a genius!
A small 1.26 kW photovoltaic system was installed at the Sarver residence in May 2010. The PV system qualified for the Consumers Energy Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP) and so all the power is sold to Consumers Energy with a feed-in-tariff type arrangement for 12 years.
The PV system was purchased from Luma Resources in Rochester Hills and installed by Luma Resources and Oak Electric. The panels are roof-integrated and serve as both an electric generator and roofing. There are 21 60-watt panels that form a rectangle near the peak of the roof. Shading issues limited the size of the system. The 1100 watt inverter is located in the garage. On average the PV system has produced 1,098 kWh's per year since it was installed.
The solar bug bit hard after a little practice with a PV electric fence charger, solar camp shower, solar oven, and home built solar food dryer and bees wax melter. Interest increased with home study and two 1-week classes (Northwestern Michigan College NABCEP certificate of knowledge and GLREA PV Apprenticeship).
Interest progressed into an interactive grid tie PV 3.3 KW, battery bank system, net metered by Thumb Electric Cooperative. It is the first PV system connected to TEC. It is the first renewable energy system connected to TEC to “net produce” in a single billing period. TEC was very cooperative to do the billing “manually” until the billing software was revised to handle it. The system has 16 Evergreen 205 W panels, Xantrex 4548 inverter, Xantrex MPPT 60 solar charge controller, and 8 Energizer EGC2 lead acid batteries.
The system design was 1 of the 3 projects submitted for the GLREA Apprentice certification. For additional piece of mind, the design was later reviewed by the instructor of the NABCEP class. I took full responsibility for purchasing materials, overseeing installation, and commissioning the system. The NABCEP instructor also took time from his busy schedule to visit the job site to consult my crew and me before installation started in October 2010.
With having full responsibility for system, I personally quadruple checked ALL connections. When energized, the inverter made the most beautiful humming sound that brought tears of joy to my eyes. Almost five years later, I still get emotional thinking about it. I received a federal tax rebate the following spring. I perform battery maintenance quarterly. The system produces an average of 3,805 KWh per year. My rooster Dutch guards it closely. Sonia Swartzendruber
A Hybrid electric system combines two or more component parts to provide better performance than the individual components by utilizing the best characteristics of each to offset the undesirable attributes of the other
Bridging the millennium, our unique 1960’s home has been transformed to prepare for the clean energy and transportation future.
Home Rejuvenation - More of a complete overhaul than a remodel, the transformation began with a completely new cozy exterior - structural improvements, sheathing, added insulation, sealing, windows, and siding, new plumbing including an on-demand hot water heater, new electrical including 5 star energy efficient appliances and 100% LED and CFL lighting, and a high efficiency central heating and air conditioning system.
Hybrid Electric Home - An existing 11.5 kW natural gas emergency generator set has been backing up the electric utility to provide a continuous supply of electricity during power outages, Two years ago we installed a 3.4 kW Kyocera/Outback solar electric system on the SSW wall with a 2 position tilt angle - 30 degrees in summer / 55 degrees in winter for improved performance and shedding snow. The solar system operates in grid inter-tie mode on the Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP) operated by Consumers Energy. Under this program, the solar panel output is measured and the energy sold to Consumers Energy for a premium fixed rate of $0.26/kWh for a term of 15 years.
Hybrid Electric Vehicle 1 - Last year, my daughter replaced a conventional automobile with a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PEV). She has a 42 mile commute each way to an employer that has installed PEV charging stations. The Fusion is fitted with a 7.9 kWh Li ion battery that provides 18 to 24 miles of pure electric operation on an overnight charge. The solar system provides more than enough energy to fully charge the Fusion battery every day. The Fusion PEV qualifies us for a time-of-day pricing program that features reduced cost for overnight charging. The average fuel economy over the past year was 54 MPG.
Hybrid Electric Vehicle 2 - I was so impressed with the Fusion Energi PEV that I bought a second one for myself. With 5 miles to Chelsea, 12 miles to Dexter, and 22 miles to Ann Arbor with free PEV charging at the public parking lots, my Fusion Energi operates primarily in pure electric mode yielding fuel economy values in the 130 - 160 MPG range. The PEV hybrid power train allows unlimited range in an efficient hybrid mode that can be manually selected or is automatically engaged when the pure electric range is depleted. A weekend trip to Mackinaw, Chicago, Toronto, or as far as you choose to go is just like any other car - an electric charge along the way is a bonus.
Experience to Date and Conclusions - Last year, the solar panels produced more than enough energy to fully charge the Fusion Energi battery every day. The average American automobile travels 29 miles/day. A plug-in hybrid vehicle that can provide the daily needs of 50% of the drivers can be “fueled” by solar panels that will fit on the standard one car garage roof - in Michigan. Obviously, Central and Southern states would require fewer solar panels or provide an even longer daily pure EV range capability.
Future PEV Plans - We recently pre-ordered a Tesla battery and plan to add a second 3.4 kW Kyocera/Outback inverter/charger next Spring. It will be a stand-alone system mounted on a new carport.. www.hybridelectrichome.com
Jonathan Gingerich has been enthusiastic about solar cell technology since the launch of Skylab in May of 1973. The project at his home in Paw Paw Township consists of forty 310 watt panels on a racking system that tips up in the winter to allow snow to fall off and to catch the ambient energy reflected off of the snow. The system can generate about 13,000 watts (13kw) of power in peak conditions. When tipped vertically in the winter on a sunny day, the panels should be able to perform as well or better than on a sunny day in July due to the reflectance off of the snow. The Gingerichs put this system down in a slight valley hoping that the surrounding hillside will increase the reflectance even more. The PV system is predicted to generate just under 18,000 kWh per year. Their home is all electric and used 20,000 kWh last year. With added energy conservation methods they hope to have a Net Zero home within a year. The system cost approximately $48,0000 (before the 30% federal tax credit). It should be paid off in 8-10 years.
The Barclay-Ledvina Dream Farm (http://DreamFarm.org), a retrofit of a 1980-built home, boasts multiple efficiency measures (cellulose in attic, targeted polyurethane spray foam, low-infiltration e-coated windows, high efficiency appliances and bulbs), a solar hot water system (81 sq. ft. of Heliodyne Gobi collectors in external closed loop), wood space heating (Encore Wood Burning Stove by Vermont Castings-one of the lowest emissions wood stoves in the industry), and a solar-electric tracking array (grid-tied 3.2 kW array of sixteen Sanyo HIP-200 watt modules mounted on a Wattsun AZ-225 tracker). The solar-electric system generates over 5 megawatt-hours per year--more electricity than the home uses on an annual basis. By updating all the appliances and light bulbs in the last 5 years, all electrical needs are fulfilled with the solar energy generated on site.
Flo and Don Cutter attended a Solar Energy Forum on May 30, 2015, at Bay College in Escanaba. They describe what happened as a result. "We learned it would now be possible to install solar voltaic panels for less than six years ago. As a result, we decided to invest $16,000 of our hard earned and saved retirement funds in a solar power system of our own. Our retirement income has forced us to look at saving in every way we can. We felt that this project would help our budget as our UPPCO bill has been steadily rising despite our energy conservation including elimination of our dusk to dawn light. We are trying to be financially and environmentally responsible.
We contacted Gerry Nelson of U.P. Sustainable Solar, Bark River, Michigan to begin the process in early June. We installed 12 photo voltaic panels. Electric rates per kWh in the UP are 18-25 cents, double the rates in lower Michigan which average 11.11 cents per kWh. (Comparison charts are available on the internet.) Our panels produce enough to cover our average needs.
SB 438, currently in the Senate Energy Committee, eliminates net metering as well as forcing homeowners to sell their power at wholesale rates of about 4 cents/kWh and buy back their own power at retail rates of 18-25 cents/kWh for us in the UP. This is very disturbing when we ourselves, not the power company, have made the investment in panels, accompanying supplies, installation, permits, inspection, and labor to produce our own power, while UPPCO has not had to increase any infrastructure.
The Federal Government has even given people an incentive to do this in a 30% tax credit. Now Michigan Legislative bills such as SB 438 want to take it away. We are contacting our own legislators, and the legislative energy committees on behalf of homeowner, small business, and nonprofits using solar power. We hope to be able to continue to have the choice for our home solar power with net metering on behalf of our budget and the environment."