solarindustry by HC12072701424

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									SOLARINDUSTRY

                    Solar industry getting hotter in Michigan
                                        By CHRIS JACKETT
                                        Capital News Service

LANSING – Solar energy has spawned a rapidly growing industry that offers businesses and

homeowners the chance to be environmentally friendly and save money.

       “I’ve been in this for over 25 years, and never has there been a bigger opportunity,” said

Bill Guiney, manager of the water heating division of Solargenix Energy. “It’s become a totally

different business than in the ’80s.”

       Solargenix, a Chicago-based company, makes products for architects across the Midwest

to reduce buildings’ energy consumption.

       Its solar systems have been installed in firehouses, senior centers, homeless shelters and

even Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

       Jennifer Alvarado, executive director of the nonprofit Great Lakes Renewable Energy

Association in Dimondale, said, “A lot of people are interested in using green energy because it

reduces pollution and offers energy independence. You can have your own electricity rather than

belonging to a grid or electrical company.

       “Demand is increasing because of our need to diversify the electrical energy supply.

Michigan, and other parts of the Great Lakes region, is looking to take the burden off the fossil

fuel industry.”

       John Sarver, supervisor of technical assistance at the state Energy Office, said, “There’s a

big difference in terms of energy efficiency. With solar systems, you can save money.”

       Solar systems in a home or business can serve several purposes. The systems can power

lighting, water heaters and appliances, from blenders to air conditioners. By using solar panels to
harness the sun’s energy, systems also decrease electric bills.

       Alvarado said, “Solar panel costs are expected to come down over time as we use more

and more.”

       She added that the state is processing and evaluating an energy plan to ensure fair

installation and billing practices among homeowners and electrical utilities.

       Guiney and Sarver both said tax credits play a large role in the expansion of the solar

industry. Homeowners and businesses receive credits for installing solar systems or other

environmentally friendly improvements.

       “Tax credits really help. They encourage people to go that extra step and purchase a

system,” Sarver said.

       United Solar Ovonics, better known as Uni-Solar, is Michigan’s largest solar system

producer and its “production is sold out for the next three years,” said Lisa Dancsok, senior vice

president of marketing, communications and legislative affairs for the Michigan Economic

Development Corp. The company is opening six factories in Greenville to accommodate the

massive growth of the industry.

       Solargenix’s Guiney said, “I see (the industry) going nothing but up.” Customers are

“seeking us, rather than us seeking them.”

       He also noted that the industry needs more factories and investors to handle the growth.

       Sarver said, “There’s been a gradual increase in demand and production. The demand is

greater than the supply right now.”

       Alvarado said many American-made solar products are sold in Europe. “The U.S. is just

getting enough (of the market) to feed the demand.”

       She also said solar energy is expanding into the automobile industry.
        “We’re looking at powering cars by solar electricity,” she said. “The technology is in the

works. It’ll just take a little while before we see it as a real viable market solution.”



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