Volunteers, electricians and staff members are installing solar panels to provide electricity for the Ecology Center. [photo] [photo] The eight panels, a 1.8 kW system, are expected to provide enough power for the office’s lighting needs.
Two energy-related items will appear on the Ann Arbor city council’s post-holiday agenda next week.
One of those items calls on the city’s employee retirement system to divest from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.
The second resolution would direct the Ann Arbor city staff to work with DTE to develop a pilot program for a “community solar” project – an initiative that would allow a group of people or businesses to purchase shares in a solar energy system, not located at the site of their electric meter.
The items appear on the council’s tentative agenda for Sept. 3, 2013, which is shifted to Tuesday from its regular Monday slot due to the Labor Day holiday.
Both resolutions were sponsored by the city’s energy commission, a 13-member group with the responsibility of overseeing city policies and regulations on energy and to make recommendations to the city council.
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to accept an additional $20,000 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE). Of that amount, $17,500 will be applied to a contract with the Clean Energy Coalition for its XSeed Energy community solar program. The remaining $2,500 will go to the city of Ann Arbor to cover grant administration and oversight costs.
The original grant from the USDOE, as a part of the Solar America Cities Project, was made in July 2007 for $200,000. According to a staff memo, Ann Arbor has secured commitments from 11 local organizations for various matching funds for a additional $355,008.
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]
Ann Arbor Historic District Commission meeting (Sept. 9, 2010): The last-minute addition of a closed session – which lasted nearly an hour, just prior to deliberations on the Zingerman’s Deli expansion – added a bit of drama to Thursday’s meeting. But ultimately commissioners unanimously approved all projects on their agenda, with only a few concerns cited.
The highest-profile of those projects, of course, was a plan to expand the Zingerman’s Deli operations at the corner of Detroit and Kingsley streets, in the Old Fourth Ward historic district. About a dozen representatives affiliated with Zingerman’s attended the meeting, including co-founder Paul Saginaw and managing partners Grace Singleton and Rick Strutz.
In 2008, commissioners rejected the company’s first attempt to gain HDC approval – in the form of a “certificate of appropriateness,” which included asking permission to tear down a small house on their property that had been gutted by fire. Since that initial rebuff by the HDC, Zingerman’s has been working on an alternative path, gaining approval from the city’s planning commission and city council, and returning to the HDC for a “notice to proceed.”
On Thursday, the commission granted the notice to proceed, which will allow the project to move forward. Several commissioners addressed concerns raised during public commentary about this project setting a precedent, saying that Zingerman’s is a unique business and this expansion is unique as well.
But commissioner Lesa Rozmarek, while noting that she would support the project and that overall Zingerman’s is an asset to the community, also said she wanted it on the record that she felt Zingerman’s had threatened the commission with the prospect of leaving the area if they didn’t get approval. The project sets a bad precedent, she said, adding that “it’s opening a big door that hopefully we can shut after this application.”
Later in the meeting Saginaw responded to Rozmarek’s comments, denying that anyone from Zingerman’s threatened to leave the city – though at one point they did consider moving out of that location to another site within Ann Arbor, he said. Saginaw said he believed the HDC was able to approve the project on its merits.
In other business, the commission issued certificates of appropriateness for three projects: 1) a solar panel installation at 217 S. Seventh St., 2) a request to add an exterior sign near the front door of 209-211 S. State St., where a CVS pharmacy is being constructed, and 3) a proposal for a 1.5-story addition on the back of 442 Second St.
The solar project is being installed on the home of Matt Grocoff, founder of Greenovation TV. Grocoff had attended last month’s HDC meeting, when two other solar panel installations were approved, including one at the historic Michigan Theater building on East Liberty. On Thursday, Grocoff told commissioners that when his solar panels are installed, his home will be the oldest in the nation to achieve net zero energy status, using only energy generated on-site.
Bonnie Bona insists that the best way to make pesto is with a mortar and pestle. While she admits the method is more labor-intensive than using a food processor, Bona cites it as yet another tip to become more eco-friendly.
As a project manager for the Ypsilanti-based Clean Energy Coalition, Bona specializes in this art of saving energy. She is quick to add, however, that “my goal isn’t to make people sacrifice and suffer. It’s to make them see opportunities where life can be better and, oh, by the way, it uses a lot less energy.”
But it’s not just about using less energy. Bona and others in the Ann Arbor area are involved with projects that focus on generating alternative energy, too – in particular, solar power. Prompted in part by the lure of tax credits and available state and federal funding, an increasing number of efforts are underway to install solar panels on individual residences, businesses, nonprofits and schools – including, as one recent example, the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor.
And in mid-August, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission unanimously approved two solar installation projects in historic districts, one for a private home on South Seventh Street, and another at the Michigan Theater. With some citing concern over aesthetics, commissioners acknowledged that they’ll likely see more of these requests in the future, and discussed the need to develop guidelines for solar installations within the city’s historic districts.