April 18, 2016

TC Shines: Connecting the Solar Industry

By CAROL THOMPSON cthompson@record-eagle.com Apr 11, 2016

TRAVERSE CITY — Installing solar panels requires more than a sturdy ladder.

Installers have to pitch products to curious homeowners, design systems and order parts. That can take time and cash, and sometimes cause frustration for all involved, said Jim Dulzo, senior energy policy specialist for the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities.

"We think that not enough people understand the potential of solar in our region," he said. "We're doing everything we can with this campaign to make it a lot easier to go solar and, as with most commercial transactions, easier means cheaper … and also more convenient."

Groundwork is launching TC Shines and Frankfort Shines, campaigns to connect the players in the local solar energy industry. Nonprofit leaders hope to teach homeowners in Traverse City and Frankfort about solar energy, find designers to sketch appropriate arrays, help customers purchase equipment and connect them with installers.

"That's kind of the final frontier for residential solar, is streamlining the sales and installation process," Dulzo said.

The campaigns are slated to be unveiled on Earth Day, April 22. Homeowners can fill out questionnaires now about their homes' solar energy capacity on groundworkcenter.org, but Dulzo said they won't get responses until after April 22.

Homeowners are eligible for a 30 percent rebate on solar systems through 2019 thanks to a federal income tax credit for solar arrays. Some utilities also offer incentives for solar installation, Dulzo said.

TC Shines harkens to a previous Groundwork initiative called TC Saves, implemented back when the nonprofit was known as the Michigan Land Use Institute. TC Saves promoted energy efficiency.

Energy campaigns fulfill Groundwork's mission to create communities that can withstand challenges, Dulzo said. More solar arrays mean the Grand Traverse area will have local energy independence and reduce air pollution from fossil fuel plants.

Dulzo said young people are attracted to areas with solar energy production — something that could become an economic boost for the region.

"Young people understand how important clean energy, renewable energy, is to their future and they want to live in communities that value that," he said. "We think this will be very, very good for the region's economy by keeping dollars in the local community."

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