Ann Arbor might be one of America's newest solar cities but Ypsilanti isn't going to let Tree Town totally eclipse their efforts to harness the sun's energy.
City officials and local volunteers are working to bring solar panels to the Ypsilanti's City Hall and Rutherford Pool. The projects won't supply much of the energy needs of the two facilities because they are so big but will demonstrate to the public how the systems work, are cost-effective and can significantly offset energy costs in smaller buildings, such as single-family homes.
"Our goal is to become a green-friendly city," says William Bohlen, director of public works for Ypsilanti. "We're trying to do that one step at a time."
The city is putting together a grant application for $6,000 from the state's Energy Office to install the solar panels that would heat the showers at the Rutherford Pool. The project would cost $4,000 in materials and another $2,000 to create the public education component.
A group of local citizens is also pushing to install a series of 12 solar panels on the south side of city hall. They only need approval from officials from the city's historic district and city council to install the $19,000 panels. The group behind this initiative is the same one that spearheaded the effort to put solar panels on the Ypsilanti Food Co-op in 2004.
"I said, 'Damn. This is a perfect location. There isn't a shadow on it. Perfect,'" says Dave Strenski, an Ypsilanti resident helping push the idea, referring to the city hall solar panel project. "It was just bugging me, so I went to the mayor with the proposal."
So far 70 people have pledged at least $50 each to fund the project. The city is also looking into grants and other funding sources, but so far it's a grass-roots effort which needs another 130 $50 donors to fund the rest of it. For information on giving, click here.
Strenski also hopes to create a web page with a solar gauge that will show how much energy is being created by the City Hall, Rutherford Pool and Co-op solar systems. The group and city are trying to be proactive in showing people the viability of alternative energies. Strenski says solar power is cost-effective in California right now because there are enough people installing solar panel systems. He hopes the same thing will happen here in Metro Detroit with the help of projects like this.
Source: William Bohlen, director of public works for Ypsilanti and Dave Strenski, an Ypsilanti resident helping spearhead Ypsilanti's solar efforts
Writer: Jon Zemke