The Open PV Project ranks Michigan as the 28th best state for solar PV with 7.09 MW of installed capacity. Here are two things you might not know about the Michigan solar industry if you’re not spending a lot of time in the state:
1.) Michigan Solar Installed capacity is going to double fast
Last week I saw more solar panels than I’ve ever seen in one place – surprisingly, here in Ann Arbor. In 2011 McNaughton-McKay won a solar panel contract with DTE for a series of projects totaling nearly 15MW in installed capacity. That’s a huge number, and the evidence is on display when you walk the aisles at McNaughton-McKay: thousands of panels stacked floor-to-ceiling in their Ann Arbor warehouse.
So when I say capacity is going to double fast, it’s not a hope or a dream. DTE has committed to achieving 22 MW of installed solar PV in the state. McNaughton-McKay is part of DTE’s team for these projects and have built a knowledgeable team to facilitate these massive installations. Spending time in the warehouse made me feel like I was standing at the epicenter of Michigan’s solar industry.
2.) Community solar in Michigan is driving the residential market
Most of the DTE projects are commercial and utility scale, so what about the residential solar market? The most promising initiative driving the adoption of residential solar in Michigan is the push toward ‘community solar’ kicked off by Cherryland Electric Coop’s Community Solar program.
Matt Roush with CBS Detroit and Dave Konkle from the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) do a great job describing community solar, how it works, and the basic financial impact in this article. The Michigan Energy Office awarded GLREA a $33,304 grant to compile a best practices report for community solar in Michigan. This fall we’ll be creating a free course to walk through the feasibility and economics of community solar, including all the numbers for planning community solar projects. We’ve covered successful community solar projects in Vermont in the past, and also acknowledged that community solar can be a pain. The new information isn’t that community solar works, it’s that it’s working in Michigan. And the state is funding exploration so more of it can happen.
62% voted ‘no’ on last year’s ballot initiative to amend the state constitution and mandate 25% renewable energy by 2025. Exit polls made it pretty clear that voters favor the adoption of solar, but rejected the notion that the constitution needed to be amended to make it happen. DTE is quietly plowing forward with their solar carve-out, and GLREA is spearheading grassroots efforts on the residential side. For contractors taking a look at solar, my advice is to stay open and vigilant for opportunities. Licensing and certification requirements are light because the Michigan solar industry is still in it’s infancy. As some of these projects start to flow, there will be opportunities for those who know the local market.