solar energy

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Lansing Board of Water and Light wants to build Michigan’s largest solar power facility.

BWL officials say they want to contract with companies or organizations to build a solar power facility to generate up to five megawatts of electricity. Altogether the project could potentially be five times bigger than the next largest solar array in the state.

BWL’s proposal is a little vague on specifics, including where a facility would be located.

A utility spokesman says the project could provide enough electricity to power 2500 homes.

Ford Motor Company / Flickr

When we think solar power and solar panels, what comes to mind? 

The sun, of course. So what are the prospects for solar power in areas that tend to be cloudy, snowy, and cold? Places with short days and long nights? Places like Michigan's Upper Peninsula?

Upper Peninsula Second Wave writer Sam Eggleston joins us from Marquette to discuss what might happen when solar power meets the UP.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Courtesy Photo

First up, a Michigan man who’s trying to win millions of dollars with solar power.

He’s trying to put solar panels on as many Michigan homes and businesses as he possibly can.

Prasad Gullapalli’s Novi-based Srinergy wants you to invest in solar panels – for your home, for your business – doesn’t matter. He’s looking for anybody in Michigan to go solar.

He’s making the offer with no upfront costs.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Ann Arbor's historic Michigan Theater is going solar. Or at least its marquee is.

The Ann Arbor News reports that the solar energy installation marks the first renewable energy project by XSeed Energy. The U.S. Department of Energy's Solar America Cities program provided initial funding for XSeed.

The project is expected to generate enough electricity to power the marquee when light-emitting diode lamps are installed. The LEDs will replace incandescent bulbs and should use up to 95 percent less energy.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - More wind and solar energy users in Michigan are getting billing credit for excess power they generate.

State regulators issued a report last week showing utility customers with their own windmills and solar panels onsite increased the net metering program's production size by 55% from 2011 to 2012.

There also were more than 300 additional residential or business customers taking part in the program last year than the year before.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Four years after raising customers' bills to meet mandates to sell cleaner power, Michigan's biggest utilities are eliminating the fees or slashing them significantly.

Residential customers of DTE Electric may see their $3 monthly surcharge fall to 43 cents under a proposal to state regulators. Consumers Energy's 52-cent monthly fee for residential customers - which once was $2.50 - could go away entirely.

Advocates say the shrinking surcharges for residents and businesses are another reason to make utilities sell more green electricity.

www.genoa.org

The wind turbines installed in Livingston County's Genoa Township 3 years ago are scheduled to be torn down within the coming weeks.

The Genoa Township Board says the turbines are hazardous and have sent aluminum parts flying into surrounding areas on windy days.

Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing / www.engin.umich.edu

The Solar Car team at the University of Michigan unveiled its newest car today.

The car is called “Generation” and it will represent the U of M team in The World Solar Challenge this fall.

warrenski / Creative Commons

Check this chart out. Interact with it.

The green circles hovering over each of the fifty states represents each state's green energy consumption, based on recent data from the Energy Information Administration. 

The map was created by Mother Jones, and is a visual aid to understand how much each state used solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A new report finds that most of Michigan's electricity providers are on pace to generate 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

The Michigan Public Service Commission's annual renewable energy report released Friday finds the use of wind, the sun and other renewables was expected to have reached 4.7 percent last year. The estimate was 4.4 percent in 2011 - up from 3.6 percent the previous year.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Public Service Commission and Michigan Energy Office officials plan to hold the first of seven forums this week on the state's energy future.

Among those scheduled to speak Thursday in Lansing include representatives of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan Environmental Council and Citizens Against Rate Excess.

The four-hour public forum called "Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions" starts at 1 p.m. at the Library of Michigan.

Crowd Funding Helping Light up Highland Park

Nov 27, 2012

Crowd funding is helping to light up Highland Park's streets.

Last year, D.T.E. energy removed 13 hundred street lights, poles and all, when the city was unable to pay its light bill for over 5 years.

So A. J. O’Neil, a café owner, decided to lead a group to buy solar streetlights that would have little ongoing expense.

"I think", he says, "that Highland Park is going to show that providing lighting without that monthly bill is doable in a urban environment."

user vaxomatic / flickr

The campaigns for and against Proposal 3 on the November ballot are arguing the economic merits of renewable fuels versus coal and gas.

Proposal 3 would require 25 percent of the state’s electricity be generated using wind, the sun, or bio-fuels by 2025.

Ken Sikkema conducted a study for the campaign against Proposal 3.

He compared the costs of renewable generation to the costs of using coal or natural gas.

He found renewable energy will be more expensive. Sikkema says businesses, in particular, need flexibility in planning for their energy needs.

"We don’t know what the cost of fuel’s going to be – for example, natural gas prices are on a downward spiral," says Sikkema. "That could be a factor in, if you need new generation, what do you use? Do you use wind? Do you use natural gas, or coal?"

The campaign for Proposal 3 says the ballot question would help stabilize energy costs, because the cost of wind and solar energy is not as volatile as fossil fuels.

The campaign also says the 25 percent target would help make renewable energy more affordable.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Supporters say a ballot measure requiring that utilities get more of their electricity from renewable sources would make Michigan a leader in clean energy and create jobs.

Opponents say it would cost electric customers more money and make it harder to provide reliable energy.

On Monday, opponents with the Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE) for Michigan Coalition plan to ramp up statewide efforts to defeat the issue. They argue the requirement doesn't belong in the state constitution.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees has approved a plan that will increase the East Lansing campus’ reliance on renewable energy sources.

The plan approved this morning will require MSU to get 40 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and other alternative energy sources by 2030. Renewables account for about two percent of MSU’s power right now.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan State University is in the midst of a debate over how much the school  can rely on alternative energy sources to power its East Lansing campus.   

The university’s Board of Trustees meets Friday to vote on an energy plan for MSU. 

Earlier this week, MSU students used a giant inflatable inhaler to dramatize their concerns about the university’s large coal fired power plant located just south of campus. 

The students want MSU to commit to turning completely to wind, solar and other alternative energy sources for the university’s electricity needs.

Energy Conversion Devices

Energy Conversion Devices, Inc., a technology company based in Auburn Hills, Michigan filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today.

The company makes thin laminates that convert sunlight to energy and "has manufacturing facilities in Auburn Hills and Greenville, Michigan, as well as sites in Mexico and Canada," according to the Wall Street Journal.

user vaxomatic / flickr

A coalition of business, labor and agriculture groups is backing a ballot campaign to boost the state’s renewable energy mandate.

Michigan utilities are already required to get 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2015. The proposed constitutional amendment would boost that to 25 percent, by 2025.

"There’s 20 other states that include and Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa that have already adopted measures similar to the initiative, without significant increase in utility costs for consumers," said campaign spokesman Mark Fisk.

A spokesman for DTE Energy says it would be difficult to comply with the 25 percent mandate without a significant increase in rates. The proposed ballot language says utilities could not increase rates by more than one percent a year to comply with the mandate.

A state elections board is expected to decide whether to approve the ballot language this week.

Ford Motor Company / Flickr

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) - Solar energy product maker Energy Conversion Devices Inc. says it has temporarily suspended manufacturing and is planning about 500 job cuts.

The Auburn Hills-based company announced Tuesday that manufacturing has been halted because of excess inventory. The company says about 400 workers will be furloughed at its manufacturing facilities in Michigan, Mexico and Ontario, Canada.

The production cuts include United Solar Ovonic facilities in Greenville, where more than 140 layoffs recently were announced. Other Michigan manufacturing facilities are in Auburn Hills.

The company said that to help cut costs about 500 full-time job cuts were expected by the end of the year.

Energy Conversion Devices has been restructuring its operations since May. It said it expects to return to normal production levels within 60 days.

Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical first unveiled its solar shingle two years ago, with plans for a limited release in mid-2010.

Now the company announced that the shingles will be available to some customers starting this month. The company says they're starting in the strongest markets for solar this month. The shingles will first be available in Colorado, and a "rolling launch" will occur in markets from California to the "East Coast."

In a press release, Dow said the shingle "protects the home like a standard roofing shingle while providing energy that saves the homeowner money":

Dow can now serve the need of homeowners who want to go solar, but aren’t willing to accept the complexity and sub-optimal aesthetics currently offered by bulky, rack-mounted systems.

Booth Mid-Michigan reports that Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris called Dow's solar shingle "a game changer that will address an estimated $5 billion market by 2015."

From Booth Mid-Michigan:

Dow hasn't reported a price for the shingles, but said the cost to homeowners will be set by the channel to market, and will depend on the size and configuration of the home and desired power generation. Dow officials said the cost of solar shingles can be thousands of dollars less than solar panels installed on top of a roof.

Lunar eclipse tonight

Dec 20, 2010
Lunar eclipse
D'Arcy Norman - wikimedia commons user

Update December 21st, 2:00 a.m.:

Well, I woke up... the Earth's shadow is passing over the moon right now. NASA says it'll be in full eclipse starting at 2:41 a.m. and then the shadow will start slipping off the moon at 3:53 a.m.

Welcome to the shortest day of the year! Now... time for bed.

December 20th, 1:12 p.m.

It's not as special as a solar eclipse, which happens in one spot (say in Detroit, MI) around once every several hundred years, but a lunar eclipse is still pretty cool. Even if it does happen around twice a year.