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Farmington Hills, Farmington

July 21, 2010

Farmington Hills to buy solar panels

By David Wallace
C & G Staff Writer

FARMINGTON HILLS — City Council members praised a proposal to purchase up to $125,000 worth of solar panels for the revitalized City Hall’s roof, which, thanks to federal funding and a DTE Energy payback, should cost the city nothing.

Michael Lasley, the city’s director of Central Services, brought forth the proposal to buy approximately 85 solar panels and install them on the older section of the building’s roof. The City Council unanimously approved the proposal June 28.

“The plan calls for an array field to be installed, along with inverter equipment and other equipment to be tied in, and generate our own source of electricity, which will be delivered back into the DTE grid, and then they will pay us a credit for that,” explained Lasley.

“This recommendation is virtually cost-neutral through the (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant) funding provided by the federal government, and also provides us some long-term reimbursements back,” said Lasley.

The federal government created the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant in 2007. Two years later, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has pumped $3.2 billion into the program. Farmington Hills received approximately $791,000 and designated about $250,000 for City Hall and some for other projects.

The city plans to install the panels later this summer. When the City Council approved the City Hall revitalization project, several council members and officials said they wanted the project to put money into the local economy. The solar panel purchase reportedly supports several Michigan businesses.

“There’s a significant Michigan connection here. The solar panels are assembled in Saginaw. The inverters are made in Howell, and the solar wafers come from a vendor up in Hemlock — in the mid-part of the state — and then also the vendor that we’re recommending that will be the principal on it is The Green Panel, and they’re located in Brighton,” said Lasley.

“When I went through it, I was particularly impressed by all of the Michigan connections,” said Mayor Jerry Ellis.

“It’s a great opportunity to help a fledgling business to be successful and establish itself, and then also it helps from the standpoint of energy efficiency, and it’s cost neutral,” said Councilman Michael Bridges.

Binger Winchell of The Green Panel explained how the DTE Energy payback works.

“For systems up to 20 kilowatts, which will produce approximately 21,000 kilowatt hours of power per year, they will reimburse on a per-watt basis towards the installation of the project. They will then enter into an agreement to pay 11 cents per kilowatt hour produced from the array for the next 20 years,” said Winchell. “So you get the benefit of utilizing the power, and Detroit Edison is also going to pay you over the next 20 years for that power that’s produced. So it’s kind of a real win-win situation.”

“We expect that it will generate anywhere from $250 to $300 a month. If you do the payback on it, it doesn’t really pay itself back, but because of the funding sources that we have here, it will have a payback to the city,” said Lasley.

“I liked this before I just heard this presentation. I like it even better now,” said Ellis. “We’re literally going to almost make money on this project.”

“And do great things for the environment — less CO2 in the atmosphere,” said Winchell.

“We also are planning some educational outreach opportunities, like putting a panel inside the building so that people can see it,” said Lasley.

The city approved up to $125,000 for the panels, Lasley said, because the technology is so new and changes so rapidly. He said the price for the array already dropped between the time the city bid the project and when it asked for additional pricing information from the vendors.





You can reach C & G Staff Writer David Wallace at dwallace@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1053.