Michigan Solar Solutions Says Michigan is Poised for ‘Solar Explosion’ in 2010

According to company President Mark Hagerty, the year is shaping up to be "a perfect storm for solar" in the state. "Many people think that solar won’t work in Michigan because it’s too cold and it doesn’t get as much sun as other places, but that’s misconstrued," Hagerty said. "Michigan has an average of 4.2 hours of peak sunlight per day each year. Florida, the ‘Sunshine State’ only has about five hours. Solar panels are less efficient the hotter they get and actually produce more power when it gets cooler. While the Southwest may get more hours of sun, the panels produce less voltage per peak hour because of the heat." He added that in 2008, his company’s solar panels produced 1.2 times the rated output at 10 degrees below zero.

One reason Hagerty says Michigan is the place for solar power in 2010: rising electricity prices and increasing state and federal incentives mean that renewable energy has never been cheaper.

"Incentives are constantly changing and increasing," Hagerty said. "Recently the federal government removed the $2,000 limit on the 30 percent tax credit for renewable energy. Michigan also now has a true Net Metering Law which means that utility companies have to accept any electricity that an owner puts onto the grid. People are recognizing the economic value in renewable energy and jumping on board at an unprecedented rate."

Utility companies are helping with additional incentives. DTE Energy is one example. It is currently piloting a "Solar Currents" program designed to make solar energy more affordable. It has been authorized by the Michigan Public Service Commission to partially reimburse customers for installing solar systems on their homes or businesses. Customers who participate in the program will also receive a credit on their energy bills for the next 20 years (11 cents per kilowatt hour) in addition to federal tax credits and other local incentives.

Consumer’s Energy has also introduced a feed-in tariff to spur more interest in solar. Their program reimburses customers 65.0 cents per kilowatt hour, for approved systems installed by May of 2010, (52.5 cents per kilowatt hour for approved systems installed after May of 2010) for any electricity a customer produces from solar-powered systems. Similar programs in Germany resulted in the creation of 170,000 jobs and the most solar-powered systems installed per capita in the world.

"Since Michigan is sunnier than Germany, this is very encouraging," Hagerty said.

Further evidence that the use of solar power is rapidly progressing in Michigan is the fast-paced growth Hagerty’s company has experienced. Michigan Solar Solutions is currently doing as much business in one month as it did throughout all of 2008.

"We’re very busy on a number of solar and wind installations right now," Hagerty said. In addition to numerous residential projects, Michigan Solar Solutions is working on a solar panel array for the offices of a Japanese auto supplier in Farmington Hills. The company is also doing an installation on the press building at the Michigan International Speedway and working closely on a major solar incubator and production plant in Toledo. The plant is part of a plan to create a new solar corridor from Toledo to Dow Chemical Company’s Hemlock Semiconductor in Saginaw along I-75.

Hagerty said his company, which uses Michigan products wherever it can, is planning to add a significant number of employees to its team of four during 2010. Most of them will be drawn from the auto industry and retrained.

Michigan Solar Solutions, LLC is a leader in Michigan for the design, sale and installation of solar and wind energy-producing systems. The company specializes in residential, commercial, municipal and school energy efficiency audits and the installation and maintenance of solar-powered electric and solar thermal home heating/water heating systems. It also specializes in roof-mounted and pole-mounted wind generator systems. Michigan Solar Solutions installs Michigan-made products using Michigan labor wherever possible.