Get out and Join the National Solar Tour

9/30/11 | 11:40:00 AM

Editor’s Note: At Google, we are committed to renewable energy and are excited to see others join the cause. Today's guest author is Dave Strenski, founder of SolarYpsi.org, a group in Ypsilanti, Michigan dedicated to the use of renewable energy. Dave has spearheaded his hometown’s transformation to solar and is taking part in the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour on October 1 that showcases solar projects throughout the country.

If you’re into solar, head out to see some of the cool projects in your area showcased as part of the National Solar Tour this Saturday, October 1. And don’t assume you need to be in sunny spots like Texas or Arizona to see solar projects in action. Thanks to a group of dedicated locals, Ypsilanti, a snowy, cloudy corner of Michigan is turning into a model solar community.

Our story shows that not only can you go solar just about anywhere, you don’t even need to be an expert to start with -- all the information you need is already out there on the web, you just need to go search for it.

The SolarYpsi project was started six years ago by a group of volunteers to design, install, and educate the public about renewable energy and energy conservation. I’m an engineer, but knew nothing about solar technology then. I began searching online when the manager of the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative expressed interest in putting solar panels on the roof of the store. I quickly found a grant program, and we won our first small grant. The search was then broadened to find information on various panels and how to install them. Volunteers and friends rallied to help, and four solar panels were quickly mounted on the Ypsi Food Coop’s roof.



Since then, we’ve won more grants to designed installations to expand the Ypsi Food Coop’s installation, designe a new system for Ypsilanti’s City Hall, and the River Street Bakery. We also helped a local public school, Adams S.T.E.M. Academy to find a solar grant. To help monitor the economic impact of these installations, we also developed an open-source program to track and visualize energy patterns. To spread the word, we’ve been giving talks to educate the public on how solar power works, how it compares to other energy sources, metering, and the importance of efficiency.

Over the years, we’ve compiled lots of information on all things solar on SolarYpsi.org. The site also provides real-time, visual graphs of the power being generated, consumed, and exported at buildings with solar installations around Ypsilanti. My wildest dream is to have a hundred locations in my hometown generating solar power - all connected to SolarYpsi.

Every year, the American Solar Energy Society organizes the tour where home and business owners show and talk “brag” about their solar installations. The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is a great opportunity to enjoy the fall weather and learn about renewable energies in your local area. When you visit the National Solar Tour website, you can click on a map to locate the tour closest to you.

If you happen to be in Southeast Michigan, stop by Ypsilanti and visit our six locations, all within walking distance of each other.

Posted by Dave Strenski, founder of SolarYpsi.org