Big house news to share, and I am GEEKING OUT!

I probably mentioned way long ago that we really really REALLY wanted to install solar panels when we renovated the house, but it just didn’t fit in the original budget. We figured it would be one of those way-off-in-the-distant-future projects. But then, thanks to a Facebook post by Matt Grocoff, I became aware of the MI Solar Works program administered by a local non-profit, the WARM Training Center. From their website: “MI Solar Works is a state-wide initiative to solarize 6,000 Michigan homes and businesses by the end of 2014 as part of the Department of Energy’s “Race to the Rooftops” national challenge.” Basically, my understanding is that if enough people are interested in solar panels within a given metro area, they can provide low “bulk rate” prices for the panels and installation. Of course I immediately signed up, but was told that they didn’t yet have enough interest in Ypsilanti. Wop wop.

But then, on July 31, I received an email that they’d hit the quota for Ypsilanti! They’d also already done a Google assessment of our rooftop to make sure it was suitable for solar (the side that faces the river is just a few degrees off from due south). The next step was for me to send our latest electric bill, so that they could assess how many panels we would need.

[Incidentally, apparently our local evil monopoly power company has been able to impose regulations on the number of solar panels people can have. We are only allowed to install enough to cover our average monthly usage. Even if we wanted to buy more ourselves – and pay to have them installed – TO PRODUCE EXTRA CLEAN SOLAR ENERGY that would go back on the grid, we wouldn’t be allowed to. REALLY, DTE? I would love to hear their attempt at a non-evil justification of this steaming pile of horse shit.]

Anyway! Here are the numbers, in case anyone is curious. Turns out we use about $70 in electricity per month. This is perfect, because one of the standard sizes for solar installation covers about $72/month in usage. This is a 4.87 kW system, for which the array will be about 400 sq ft. We’ll likely produce “extra” energy in the summer, which will go back on the grid and we’ll get credit, which we can use if we’re short in the winter.

Here is a financial summary. The total cost is nearly $14,600 (ouch!), but there is a 30% tax credit, bringing the cost down to about $10,200. MI Solar Works is partnering with Michigan Saves to finance all or part of this amount, and no down payment is required. If we finance the entire amount, our monthly payments would be in the ballpark of $160 over 10 years. We will probably put some money down to reduce the monthly payments a bit, but we’re still figuring out what the best approach is for us financially. In any case, though, it is much more affordable than we ever thought it would be, and we are so excited! We have someone coming this afternoon to check out our roof and meter, and let us know about the next steps.

Check out all that glorious south-facing roof


  1. I am SO interested in this. I want to do solar as well, the idea of being independent electrically within 10 years is so attractive. I would consider installing electric heat (we currently have minimal gas heat, being in S. Cal) and AC, neither of which we have, but if we went solar I'd feel good about them —
    I assume you have gas heat – can you convert and then get a larger system?


  2. Congratulations! It's a much different scenario here in Ontario. A government program buys the electricity from people with solar panels (at much higher prices per kilowatt than what you pay on your hydro bill). So no one goes off the grid even if they install solar panels. Financially you're so much farther ahead to buy back the power, rather than use what you generate. Installation isn't supplemented the same way though, so the cost to buy and install the panels is massive (about 4 times yours). We had submitted our application, but the program's been put on hold until the fall when they're going to re-evaluate the rates that they're paying to people with solar. Our fingers are crossed that we can get into the program then. Even though we won't be off the grid, we'll feel like we're contributing by generating clean power.


  3. Laurie, we actually have a geothermal system for our heating and cooling – so it'll all run off the solar panels! We should be darn close to being able to go net zero.


  4. That's really interesting, Julia. The program you're waiting on, is it just to get paid for your energy production? Or are they re-thinking subsidizing the installation costs? I hope it will work out for you! Our credits will be the same amount that we'd pay per kW, and it's from the power company rather than the government. We do get 30% back on the install costs through a govt program though (Energy Star), so that's a good thing! We are lucky to have this great non-profit that has worked out the kinks on getting good pricing for the installation.


  5. The program is just to get paid for energy production. The government just announced the new rate, which is a bit over 39 cents per kW. It's gone down, but since we pay about 9 cents a kW for the power we buy from the grid we'll still be ahead to get the panels… provided we can afford the start up costs. There's no provision to supplement the cost of the panels or installation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s