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‘Great Lakes Bay’ Touts Green Initiatives

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Solar panels (credit: Wikimedia)

Solar panels (credit: Wikimedia)

mattroush Matt Roush
Matt Roush joined WWJ Newsradio 950 in September 2001 to spearhead the...
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SAGINAW (WWJ) – The Saginaw County economic development agency Saginaw Future Inc., in partnership with other counties and agencies in the Saginaw Bay region — which now markets itself as the ‘Great Lakes Bay’ — Monday outlined several energy efficiency and solar initiatives in the area.

First is the region’s effort to create “Solar Ready” communities.

Last year, the Clean Energy Coalition led a pilot project funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to identify the main barriers to adoption of solar power for commercial and residential property owners in the region. The four pilot communities were Midland, Saginaw, Thomas Township and Williams Township.

As a result of the study, improvements were recommended in three areas — information access, the permitting process, and the planning and zoning process. In response to the study, the Michigan Energy Office granted funds to the CEC to implement recommendations on these improvements in the four pilot communities, and to create a template for information and regulatory improvement that could be used statewide.

This new streamlined method aims to make the solar installation process easier for the property owner as well as the municipalities. Findings and “Solar Ready” documentation is expected to be released for other communities by September 2013.

The region is also engaged in an “Aggregate Solar Purchasing Initiative” through the MEDC. This initiative aims to advance solar through the adoption of small- to medium-scale photovoltaic systems by aggregating the purchase of the systems. It’s hoped that will cut the cost per watt of solar, making buying and installing solar more affordable.

The initiative may also offer direct economic benefit to the Great Lakes Bay region, since it’s home to several solar-related manufacturers, including Dow Chemical Co., Dow Corning Corp. and Hemlock Semiconductor. Installers of the PV systems of the project will attempt to maximize regionally available supplies.

An ideal candidate for this project would be a commercial, industrial, or nonprofit property that was recently built or remodeled or that has recently undergone energy efficiency measures. The solar installation timeline is aggressive, with installations planned to be completed by the end of 2013. Any interested property owners should contact Mark Rabinsky of Clean Energy Coalition at (734) 585-5720, ext. 24, or email mark@cec-mi.org.

In addition, a Request for Proposal has been sent out to engage qualified solar installers for the aggregated installation of this project. The final submission deadline for installers is Aug. 5. Submission information can be found at: cec-mi.org/glbr, Password: SOLAR.

Finally, Lean and Green Michigan will also be assisting the Great Lakes Bay region in establishing countywide Property Assessed Clean Energy districts.

PACE is a long term financing mechanism for nearly all types of energy efficiency improvements. This method of financing allows property owners to utilize a special property tax assessment in financing energy efficiency improvements.

In a PACE district, a loan term is negotiated with a financial institution and may include a repayment term for the life of the system. The lengthened loan term allows property owners to reduce loan payments and free up cash flow, and potentially eliminate the need for a large down payment on the system.

This widely adopted system has been established across much of the United States and has recently sparked interest in the surrounding counties. In Saginaw County, the Resolution of Intent to Establish a PACE District was approved by the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners on June 18. The proposal to consider final adoption of the district will occur at the Aug. 20 board meeting.

All of these projects aim to make it easier for property owners to implement energy efficiency improvements and more easily adopt solar energy options. For more information, please contact Natalie Schiefer at 989-754-8222 x 234 or email nschiefer@saginawfuture.com.

Region 5 partners include Arenac County, Arenac County Economic Development Corp., Bay County, Bay Future Inc., Clare County, Gladwin County, Gladwin County Economic Development Corp., Gratiot County, Greater Gratiot Development Inc., Isabella County, the Middle Michigan Development Corp., Midland County, Midland Tomorrow, Saginaw County and Saginaw Future Inc.

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