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Groundwork Shines: Solar Power Heads NorthPrint

Clean Energy | April 22, 2016 | By Jim Dulzo

Groundwork Shines: Solar Power Heads North

Lots of folks think about outfitting their homes with solar panels. They like the idea of making their own clean power, cutting their electric bills and fossil fuel use, being a bit more energy independent, and investing in their home’s and their financial portfolio’s long-term value.

But, to most people, “going solar” looks daunting. That’s because, unless you’re an expert, it is.

And that’s why today—Earth Day 2016, exactly 21 years after Groundwork was founded as the Michigan Land Use Institute—we are launching a brand-new campaign. Groundwork Shines will help homeowners in Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Benzie counties choose a right-sized, quality solar system for their house; get it expertly installed at a fair price; start protecting the air, water, and climate; and see modest but steady returns from their smart investments.

Right now we are wrapping up our paperwork with solar vendors, solar installers, and our unique “solar scouts.” Then we’ll start getting in touch with the dozens of area folks who’ve already heard a bit about Shines and signed up for it online.

First, our “solar scout” will look at their house via Google. If it’s still a “go” (i.e., there’s a minimum of trees) the scout will let them know that rooftop solar likely works at their location, find out more about the home and its annual electric consumption.

The scout will then recommend a completely right-sized solar system package—everything from panels to wires and bolts—pointing to smaller, less expensive packages that would work particularly well if the homeowner also invested in efficient appliances and lighting. That produced double savings—less power use to start with, and less spending on solar panels.

If the homeowner likes the scout’s estimated all-in price, special solar loan terms (if desired), electric bill savings, and the annualized return on investment, then it’s time to take the next step. Our scout conducts a three-hour, in-home solar inspection and analysis, leading to a complete, custom, permit-qualified, ready-to-use photovoltaic system design and engineering plan, along with access to the quoted solar package and a vetted, veteran local solar contractor ready to install your system.

The price for this service is $600, and forms a down payment on the project; the price quoted by the installer is good for a month. After that, it’s a pretty typical path when the contractor and homeowner sign a contract: a full down payment, scheduling, and throwing the panel switch on some sunny day a few weeks later.

Groundwork Shines is for people who are pretty sure they want to go solar. If you’d like a rock-solid solar system price and payoff analysis, a completed design and engineering plan for a right-sized system, access to some well-chosen and tested  Michigan-made solar packages, attractive solar loans, and quality equipment installed by trusted local installers, contact us at the website. It will probably still be a few weeks before we are completely ready to roll, but you will hear back from us soon.

And here’s a big thank-you to the seven participating installers in the Grand Traverse region, as well as some folks from Northwestern Michigan College, SEEDS, and the Benzie Solar Initiative. They all helped us think through and polish up our Shines design. The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades!

Jim Dulzo is the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities’ senior energy policy specialist. Reach him at jimdulzo@groundworkcenter.org. Visit the Groundwork Shines page to learn more.