The 24th Annual Michigan Solar Home Tour goes virtual amidst pandemic

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The 2020 Michigan Solar Home tour hosted by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association took place Saturday, October 3, over Zoom instead of the traditional walkthrough home tour. The annual event is in its 24th year.  

In previous years, people would showcase their home or businesses’ solar systems throughout Michigan. Due to the virtual nature of the event, guests were able to see every solar system.

The tour, which went from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., allowed guests to understand how solar energy can reduce your monthly energy bill while promoting a clean environment. A typical “tour” used Zoom’s screen-sharing tool in which speakers showed pictures and statistics of their solar systems.

Twelve people showcased their solar system, including MSU Professor David Arnosti.

Haslett Church

Solar panels on the roof of Haslett Community Church located at 1427 Haslett Road. Image: Matt Dwyer

Arnosti showed guests a 20kW solar system on the roof of Haslett Community Church that the church installed in May 2017 for $59,400, according to the church’s website. 

The solar panels can generate two-thirds of the church’s annual energy and save an estimated $3,000 in yearly energy costs, the church’s website states.

Arnosti teaches biochemistry and molecular biology at the graduate level at MSU. He is also a board member for Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that uses religious faith to inspire renewable energy usage and is part of the national organization, Interfaith Power and Light in which 40 states and 18,000 faith-driven communities that participate, according to the organization’s website.

Financial benefits

The price of solar installations has become more affordable in recent years.

The cost of solar systems have come down significantly and 40% of electrical capacities installed in the U.S. last year were solar, Arnosti said.

In addition to the increased affordability and energy bill savings, there are additional incentives for installing a solar system.

In November 2019, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 47, which reinstated the property tax exemption on renewable energy systems. 

The state-sponsored program Michigan Saves offers financing programs for making energy improvements.

Future Tours

Executive Director of the GLREA, John Freeman, was pleased with this year’s event.

“So I think it turned out pretty well considering it was online and the format was different. We had a couple of technical glitches, but that’s almost to be expected. But overall, I was pleased,” Freeman said.

Throughout October, the Lansing Area virtual solar tour will also take place. The event will feature solar installations in Meridian Township and will also be on Zoom.

A recording of the event is on the GLREA Youtube channel.