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Solar Freedom: What does a solar-powered community look like in Michigan in 2050?

May 21, 2015

GLBR-SolarRegion

The sun warms our skin and brightens our mood, especially in Michigan. With photovoltaic technology (PV), the sun has the powerful potential to reduce air pollution, improve our health, well-being and quality of life. Unleashing the power of the sun will enhance our communities and will help us take responsibility for our global impact.

“Solar freedom” starts with living lightly — eliminating energy waste. Imagine our buildings using at least 50% less energy and as much as 80% less than in 2005. Imagine buildings that are super insulated, with equipment and appliances that use a fraction of the energy compared to today, while providing the same or better service. These buildings are full of natural light and fresh air, with views of nature — lifting our spirits and inspiring creativity. Imagine our cars, trucks and delivery vehicles are built with super-light-weight, high-strength materials that allow them to travel a great distance, powered quietly by electricity.

Solar freedom is fulfilled when much of our remaining power needs are met by the sun. Imagine PV discretely located on private and public property across the community, primarily on rooftops and interconnected to the grid. Those with good solar access are generating power in excess of their use and earning extra income from the sale of electricity. Those without solar access are buying power at a much lower cost per kilowatt-hour than they paid to the old utility. Due to the fixed cost of PV installations and free solar resource, electricity cost per kilowatt-hour is now predictable. Imagine the batteries in our vehicles helping to balance when power is available on the grid. They are an integral part of our power storage system with smart controls that allow them to discharge any excess power, earning income for the vehicle owner.

With PV distributed across the community on rooftops, integrated into building facade materials and at a few select ground-mount locations, the waste from long transmission distances is also eliminated. The generation of power is close to the users, within the community. At the same time, regional interconnection is maintained so power is still available if local generation is interrupted. A combination of solar PV, wind, biomass, geothermal, passive solar, solar thermal, and our greatly reduced energy needs result in clean renewable energy.

Why by 2050? In 2009, the Michigan Climate Action Council’s (MCAC) Climate Action Plan  “proposed GHG reduction goals for Michigan are to achieve a 20% reduction of GHGs below 2005 levels by 2020 and an 80% reduction below 2005 levels by 2050.” For Michigan, redirected investment can simultaneously invigorate our economy, protect our natural resources, create energy independence and improve public health and our way of life. In the book Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011), Amory Lovins and the Rock Mountain Institute outline in great detail how this can be done with the technology that is already commercially available, by 2050.

Electricity from PV is a local solution to power generation, located on private and public properties with solar access. Communities are in direct control over how and where it is integrated to meet their local power needs. Solar freedom is power independence.

Bonnie Scheffler Bona, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Clean Energy Coalition, Project Manager
734.585.2774 x.12
bonnie@cec-mi.org

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