Sunday, May 17, 2015

Free public workshop May 18 to offer residents info on solar panels

By Michele Bourdieu

The public is invited to learn about saving money with solar power at this free public workshop, Going Solar in the Keweenaw, Monday, May 18. (Poster courtesy

HOUGHTON -- High electricity rates mean that solar power can be a good deal in the Keweenaw. A workshop, Going Solar in the Keweenaw, will show local residents how to save money on electricity by installing solar panels.

This free public workshop will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, May 18, in Fisher 139 on the Michigan Tech campus. The presenter will be Abhilash "Abhi" Kantamneni, PhD student in Computer Science at Michigan Tech and author of the Michigan Solar Calculator and Guidebook.

Wondering if solar is for you? Abhi has answers to questions like these:

    How many panels do I need?
    How much will it cost?
    How soon can I pay it back?
    What about snow?
    Can I do it myself?
    Are there permits or rules?

This workshop will walk you through everything you need to know about going solar in Houghton: from dealing with snow on panels to utility interconnection agreements. Attendees are asked to bring copies of their electric bills over a 12-month period.

"Abhi" Kantamneni has given several local presentations on solar energy and has worked with the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) on their Houghton County Energy Plan.*

At the April 23, 2015, Lake Superior Celebration of Energy and Sustainability at the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC), Abhi announced this workshop and presented an overview of his reasons for wanting to "Solarize Houghton." He began by explaining how surprised he was when he arrived at Michigan Tech from India and noted the absence of solar energy -- and how he was even more surprised when he received his first electric bill.

Here are some video excerpts from Abhi's presentation at the GLRC:

During his solar presentation at the April 23 Lake Superior Celebration of Energy and Sustainability, Abhi speaks about the high electricity bills in the Upper Peninsula and explains why snow should not be an obstacle to installing solar panels. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

Here Abhi demonstrates why Houghton, because of its high electric bills, offers a greater return on solar investment than areas with more sunshine.

Abhi said his hope is to make Houghton County the most solar-friendly county in the United States. He also spoke about his plan for a series of workshops for both high school students and adults -- including this upcoming May 18 workshop -- so that residents can learn about solar and decide for themselves whether it is worth their investment.**

Houghton resident installs vertical solar panels

Just two days after the GLRC Lake Superior Celebration, on April 25, 2015, one Houghton resident celebrated his own installation of an extensive residential solar array -- 36 vertical panels -- by hosting a talk by the engineer who helped him plan the project, which, after only three winter months, was already earning a credit on his electric bill.

This photo shows the solar panel array installed at 1104 Datolite Street in Houghton, an apartment complex owned by Allan Baker, who took the photo during snowfall in early April in order to show that snow does not accumulate on the panels. (File photo © and courtesy Allan Baker) 

Houghton Realtor Allan Baker worked with his friend and consultant, James Malosh -- a Michigan Tech graduate who is a professional engineer with a PhD in mechanical engineering, a founding fellow of the Institute of Diagnostic Engineers and the holder of five patents -- to determine the most economical and scientific way to install solar panels on an apartment building Baker owns in Houghton.

Here are some video clips from Malosh's presentation, "An Engineering Approach to Solar PV Installation":

Engineer James Malosh presents the design criteria he and Allan Baker considered in order to choose the design for the solar array on Baker's property in Houghton. Malosh gives several considerations that led to their decision to choose a vertical design. Click on YouTube icon to view this video on a larger screen. (Videos © and courtesy Allan Baker)

Malosh reports savings on electric bills this past winter through the net-metering with this solar array. He notes the savings for a year would probably equal 10 percent of the costs for purchasing and installing the system -- allowing it to pay for itself in 10 years.

Following the presentation, members of the audience asked questions and shared their own interests in solar panels.

Allan Baker (standing) circulates through the audience with a microphone to allow people to ask questions and make comments.(Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Baker is excited about sharing his experience with others and encourages interested local residents to consider joining a buying group to save costs on solar panels.

"A group of us have formed a solar buying group," Baker says. "We hope to get a wholesale price on solar panels and possibly help one another put them up."

Baker has also attended meetings of the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) and plans to share his ideas with them. He plans to attend Abhi's May 18 workshop and participate in the efforts to Solarize Houghton.

If you are interested in joining the solar buying group, contact Baker at

* Click here to read about the Houghton County Energy Plan.

** For more information visit the Solarize Houghton website.

1 comment:

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