Friday, September 18, 2015

It was a good week for solar energy in Michigan

Three stories about advances and milestones in solar-generated electricity in Michigan made the newspapers this past week.  The most recent is also the one that I'm featuring first, as The Ann Arbor News via MLive reported Michigan's largest solar panel array now up and running near Ann Arbor.
Michigan's largest solar energy installation is now up and running, and Ann Arbor Township holds the bragging rights.

Under a bright, sunny sky, DTE Energy and Domino's Farms celebrated the new 1.1-megawatt array just outside Ann Arbor on Tuesday.

Big enough to cover the football field at Michigan Stadium, the 4,000-plus panels that now cover 9.37 acres of Domino's Farms property are visible from the highway on the north side of M-14 west of Earhart Road near the U.S. 23 interchange.

According to DTE, the photovoltaic panels have the capacity to generate enough solar energy to power nearly 200 homes at any given time.
I drove past this installation last July during a class field trip and was impressed by the sight.  I would have reported on it in a field trip update except that something else took priority.  Better late than never, especially now that it's finished.

That's not all.
DTE also is constructing a 750-kilowatt solar array in Romulus and planning an 800-kilowatt array in Ypsilanti, among other projects.

The company's entire renewable energy portfolio, including wind and biomass, is now capable of generating nearly 1,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 400,000 homes, company officials said Tuesday. The portfolio includes facilities owned and operated by DTE, along with contracts to purchase power from facilities owned and operated by third-party developers in Michigan.
Follow over the jump for even bigger and better news about the future of solar power in Michigan.

The DTE facility at Domino's Farms won't be the largest solar installation for long, as the Detroit Free Press reported earlier in the week: MSU trustees approve largest solar array in Michigan.
EAST LANSING — Michigan State University plans to outfit five of its parking lots with solar panel parking bays, creating what university officials say will be the largest solar array in the state.

The plan was approved unanimously by the Board of Trustees Friday. Searching for green energy sources, including solar, coincides with the university’s energy transition plan, said Wolfgang Bauer, an MSU physics professor and senior consultant with the Office of the Executive Vice President.

The solar array is expected to generate 10 megawatts of power, roughly 1/6 the amount used on campus during peak hours, he said. The parking bays will have more than 13 feet of clearance, meaning RVs and other tall vehicles will still be able to park under them during weekend tailgates.
That's ten times the generating capacity of DTE's facility and might just remain the largest solar installation in the state for a while.

MSU is trying to get completely off electricity generated by coal by next year.  Construction on these solar panels, which will help with that goal, might begin as early as this winter.

That' not all.  The University of Michigan announced last week that it had made a breakthrough in the design of solar cells that would make rooftop and vehicle solar energy even more effective in Inspired by art, lightweight solar cells track the sun.
ANN ARBOR—Solar cells capture up to 40 percent more energy when they can track the sun across the sky, but conventional, motorized trackers are too heavy and bulky for pitched rooftops and vehicle surfaces.

Now, by borrowing from kirigami, the ancient Japanese art of paper cutting, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed solar cells that can have it both ways.

"The design takes what a large tracking solar panel does and condenses it into something that is essentially flat," said Aaron Lamoureux, a doctoral student in materials science and engineering and first author on the paper in Nature Communications.

Residential rooftops make up about 85 percent of solar panel installations in the U.S., according to a report from the Department of Energy, but these roofs would need significant reinforcing to support the weight of conventional sun-tracking systems.

A team of engineers and an artist developed an array of small solar cells that can tilt within a larger panel, keeping their surfaces more perpendicular to the sun's rays.

"The beauty of our design is, from the standpoint of the person who's putting this panel up, nothing would really change," said Max Shtein, associate professor of materials science and engineering. "But inside, it would be doing something remarkable on a tiny scale: the solar cell would split into tiny segments that would follow the position of the sun in unison."
While U of M announced the breakthrough last week, outlets such as ArchDaily only reported it this week, so it counts as this week's news.

That concludes this week's good energy news.  Stay tuned for Talk Like a Pirate Day and Entertainment Sunday.  This week's topic will be the Emmy Awards.


  1. Here's how to cut your power bill by 75%:

    Want to know how to easily produce all of the green energy you could ever want right at home?

    And you’ll be able to make your home totally immune from power failures, blackouts, and energy grid outages
    so even if everyone else in your area (or even the whole country) loses power - you won’t.


    1. This is on-topic enough that it stays. Lucky you, spammer.